Shimer recognized for exemplary efforts
Chris Shimer, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County, has joined an elite group after being chosen as this year’s recipient of an award that is meant to recognize extraordinary service to the organization.
The accolade is known as the Jim Wetherington Southwesterner Award and was presented to Shimer at the end of September as part of the annual Boys & Girls Club of America Southwest Region Leadership Conference in Austin, Texas. Jerry Glidewell, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Smith, is a former recipient of the award and also is the individual who nominated Shimer.
Glidewell said that Shimer’s winning the award lands him in a rather exclusive group, considering that aside from Shimer, only Glidewell and one other individual from the state of Arkansas have been selected for the award in at least the last 30 years. Glidewell has known Shimer since 1994 when he began working with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County and he said he nominated him for the award because he has become the cream of the crop among the organization’s upper ranks in the Southwest Region over the years.
“He’s served on several task forces in the region and state, has led sessions at conferences at the regional and national levels and has served on the Area Council, which is a statewide network of Boys & Girls Clubs made up of board presidents and various executives,” Glidewell said. “He’s just provided a lot of leadership in state and region and is very dedicated to the Boys & Girls Club movement. So with his experience and abilities I felt he was a great recipient for the award.”
Once nominated for the award, potential candidates are internally voted upon by a selection committee made up of former recipients of the award, said Robin Schmidt, Director of Organizational Development for the Boys & Girls Club of America. The specific criteria nominees for the award must meet is broad in scope, but focuses on three general areas, she said.
Schmidt said applicants must
first be able to show they have demonstrated the “highest type” of professionalism and second, they must also be able to show that they aren’t only concerned with their local organization, but also with the growth and development of others in their state and region. Lastly, they must be able to show they have worked in innovative and creative ways to develop and actively work to share the best practices with other clubs in a variety of ways; this can range from methods in which different branches of the organization use to best address the needs of their community to the way they manage their human resources department.
Shimer said he can only speculate as to why he was specifically chosen, but said that the growth that has taken place during his time in western Benton County was likely to be a factor. Some examples of this include having served about 500 kids per year in 1999, compared to about 2,000 per year today; or about 46 kids per day back then compared to the 500 kids per day they’re working with today, he said. Other instances of growth include the development of relationships with entities like the school districts of Gravette, Gentry, Decatur and Siloam Springs, the members of each of those communities as well as nonprofit organizations like the United Way.
Upon receiving the award, a video uploaded to the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County’s Facebook page shows Shimer as he gave a brief but emotional address to the audience. In the video, he recounted notable people and aspects of his experience while working with the organization in addition to expressing humility and appreciation for the recognition; adding that he was “still in shock.” In a later interview, however, Shimer said that while he is honored to have received it and was not expecting it to happen, the award need not be attributed solely to his efforts and should instead be viewed as a result of efforts collectively put forth by the community.
“It’s very humbling to consider myself in that group, it was surprising, it’s kind of still hard to believe,” Shimer said. “It’s certainly nice for me, I mean I appreciate it. But, this organization isn’t about me. This organization is about what we do and it kind of is a representation of the great people that have come together in our community and in western Benton County to allow us to provide these services.
“It’s about what happens when individuals, businesses and corporations in our community come together to help provide our kids a better life, opportunities and hope. It’s about the fact that they have a place they can come to, feel safe, have fun and feel like their voice matters; and I like to think we give them that opportunity. This is a kind of a reward to be shared by all in our community in western Benton County.”
The Boys & Girls Club of America is subdivided into five regions — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Pacific West and Southwest — and each one has their own version of this award, Schmidt said. Though not geographically consistent, the Southwest Region consists of branches in Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The award Shimer received is named after Jim Wetherington, who was a longtime CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of North Little Rock, which, under his leadership received numerous awards and accolades for an exceptional degree of service to his club, the state and Southwest Region as a whole, largely through demonstrating the qualities Schmidt mentioned above.
The Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County’s main facility is located at 655 Heritage Court in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit bgcwbc.org or call 479-524-4174.
After receiving the award, Chris Shimer, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County, takes a photo with different representatives of other Boys & Girls Clubs in the organization’s southwest region. Pictured (from left) are Misti Potter, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Austin, Texas, area; Jon Charles, retired CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas; Chris Shimer — CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County; Carlos Martinez — director of operations from the Wichita Falls Boys & Girls Club; Gerald Gathright — CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlingen; Ashley Bright — CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Wyoming.