Boys & Girls Clubs celebrate Golden Jubilee with breakfast
“Fifty years is a milestone,” said Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County CEO Jasen Kelly during the opening of the Clubs’ Golden Jubilee Breakfast on Thursday.
“It is an occasion to celebrate, an opportunity to momentarily look back and a golden ticket to plan the path forward.”
The breakfast, sponsored by Gina’s Catering, Wood Grill Buffet, Chick-fil-A and Big Red Stores, was held at the Riverside Park location.
National Vice President of Boys & Girls Clubs of America Teresa Walch, Jeff Mattingly Foundation 2019 Youth of the Year Mason Massey and Lt. Governor Tim Griffin were the speakers for the event.
Before they spoke, Kelly gave the audience some history on the 50-year-old organization. He said it is a story that began with a small group of dedicated city leaders. It opened in the old Benton Water Works Building. Not long after opening, it had 200 boys attending.
It outgrew the old building and the Cox Street facility was created in
1978. In the 1990s, the name changed to Boys & Girls Clubs when it started admitting females.
It closed for a short time in 1994, but reopened shortly after.
In April 2017, the Clubs opened the Riverside Park facility.
“We now have four locations serving over 1,000 youth each day after school, during the summer and in our sports programs,” Kelly said. “We employ over 130 people and have been recognized multiple times as a leading youth organization in our state and nation.”
He told the crowd the Clubs success is because of the individuals and business leaders who support the organization.
“We are blessed with strong partners such as the Benton School District, Dr. Mike Skelton, the city of Benton, Mayor Tom Farmer and past leaders such as former Mayor
David Mattingly,” Kelly said.
He added that the Clubs’ vision is to provide a worldclass club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who visits the Clubs.
“I want to thank all of you for investing in kids because they know they are invested in Saline County,” Walch said at the beginning of her talk on club impact.
She told the audience that Arkansas, where she is also native to, has a huge footprint of Boys & Girls Clubs with 25 Clubs and 51 Club sites serving over 75,000 children last year across the state.
“It is probably one of the biggest footprints for a state,” she said.
Walch added that the Saline County Clubs serve more than 4,000 children across the county and is an innovator for the organization. It was one of the first to serve in a juvenile detention facility and 1 of 5 operating today.
It was also one of the first to operate on a school campus. Now, clubs in schools outnumber traditional clubs. Walch said academic success and outcomes are improved by clubs on school sites.
“You set the bar,” she said.
Walch also told the audience the Riverside club is innovative.
“If that doesn’t make a statement for kids to know the adults in this community are invested in their lives nothing does,” Walch said.
She added that across the county there are record number of club sites and the children and teens who attend are not just numbers, they are a face and a life.
“We have a ton to celebrate but there is still more to do,” Walch said.
She talked about the risk to youth throughout country. She said every 2 seconds a public school student is suspended, every 49 seconds a baby is born into poverty, every 9 minutes a child is arrested for a violent offense and every 32 minutes a child or a teen is injured by a gun. She added every 3 hours and 33 minutes a child or teen commits suicide.
Walch said a child’s success is often determined by whether they have access to resources and opportunities.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs is about access for all,” Walch said. “Experiences and opportunities for all, not just some.”
She believes the Boys & Girls Clubs are a critical element to ensure every young person gets the chance to attend and experience “life-changing opportunities and skill-enhancing programs.”
She said the Clubs keep the children safe and provide a strong staff to give children the best experience.
Jeff Mattingly Foundation Youth of the Year Mason Massey read off some messages from members about how the Clubs give members confidence, are fun, are like family, inspired a member’s career goals, are a place to make friends and provide positive energy.
“Boys & Girls Club has helped me to become more social and give me confidence in myself,” one member wrote. “I’m able to finish homework while my parents know I am somewhere safe. I get a free snack after school.”
Before diving into his talk about his own experience in Boys & Girls Clubs growing up, Griffin commended Kelly and the Clubs for the literacy programs offered.
“Literacy is one of the building blocks,” Griffin said, also talking about how happy he is for the science, technology, engineering and math opportunities offered.
He also said the
Riverside Club is “ridiculously awesome.”
One of the lessons he said he learned while attending Clubs is basic life skills. He told the audience that he has traveled around the state talking to employers who have told him that they are looking for employees with basic skills such as patients, arriving on time, working with others and asking questions. They tell him if a person has those things they can be trained.
Those skills are often taught at the Clubs.
Griffin said the Clubs also taught him the value of hard work. He added hard work is the great equalizer and the harder a person works the more barriers disappear.
He also said he learned about setting goals and persistence.
“I love the Boys & Girls Club and I am so impressed with what you do here,” Griffin said.
Board President Jim Handley ended the breakfast by inviting attendees to tour the facility.
“On behalf of the Boys & Girls Clubs, thank you,” Handley added.
Emmy Rogers, director of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County, left, and Board President Jim Handley, right, present the speakers of the Clubs Golden Jubilee Breakfast — Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, second from left, and National Vice President of Boys & Girls Clubs of America Teresa Walch, second right — with custom paintings provided by local artist Matt Coburn at the conclusion of the celebration breakfast Thursday.