Golden Success

Boys & Girls Clubs cel­e­brate Golden Ju­bilee with break­fast

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Elisha Morrison

“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.

ELISHA MORRISON/The Sa­line Courier

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.

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