Boys & Girls Club: Building the future one child at a time

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Star Photo/Lynn Richardson Left to right, Jessie Replogle; Elizabethton/Carter County Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Ginny Wright; B&G Club Board of Directors Chairman, Sam LaPorte; and Caden Rogers.

Star Photo/Lynn Richardson
Left to right, Jessie Replogle; Elizabethton/Carter County Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Ginny Wright; B&G Club Board of Directors Chairman, Sam LaPorte; and Caden Rogers.

Last Thursday, a number of us in the community enjoyed a real treat – the Friendship Breakfast at the Boys and Girls Club.
However, the treat had nothing to do with the delicious breakfast we were served; the best part of the meal was the food for thought we received from some of the best speakers in Carter County — Boys & Girls Club members 11-year-old Jessie Replogle and 10-year-old Caden Rogers.
The two youngsters told guests about their experiences with the Club and what it means to them to be a part of the local organization.
“I get to come here every day after school and do homework,” Jessie told the group. “This club is something special to me because of all the people and friends I made during the summer that I was here. And I’ve been here ever since.”
Jessie talked about experiences she has had – especially in Girls U, a summer program for girls.
During the program, she and others went to Rivers Way and experienced ropes courses and team building.
“I liked it a lot because I had never been there and it was a new experience,” Jessie said. “It made me feel like I can do things in my life and that I have a bright future.
“I think the Club has changed me for the better,” she added. “I think that is what the Club is all about.”
Caden also shared his experiences with the group – especially those related to his cheerleading activities at the Club.
“I like to do flips and tricks that I’m not allowed to do inside at home,” he said. “I’m the only male cheerleader here, which I think is good. But it wasn’t easy at first, because they bullied me about being the only boy. But now, people take it seriously. Miss Ginny and Miss Brittany stood up for me and made sure that no one would bully me again. Being a cheerleader has made me stronger.”
Caden admitted that on his first day at the Club, he was a bit apprehensive, but soon learned to love it because of the caring staff.
“If it weren’t for the Boys and Girls Club, I don’t know where I would be,” he said. “Both my parents have to work, so I’d probably be at home with my brother with nothing to do. It’s much better to come here. I love the Boys and Girls Club now, and I always will.”
Almost as compelling as the young speakers, was the data Marcus Jackson, Director of Organizational Development with Boys & Girls of America, shared at the breakfast, revealing the average attendance at the local Club has skyrocketed — during the school year and in the summer. Average school year attendance has increased by more than 400 percent, from 30 to 129 since 2013; summer averages have tripled, growing from 60 to 183 during the same time frame.
Yet, B&G Club director Ginny Wright says, the organization is just reaching the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more children in the community, she said, who would greatly benefit from being part of the Club.
With 25 percent of the children in Carter County categorized as “food insecure,” Wright saw a need and went to work to meet it. In 2014 the Club began serving meals and snacks, and in that year alone, they provided 25,100 of them. So far this year, 33,215 meals and snacks have been served.
While revenue has also grown, increasing from $238,890 in 2013 to $453,209 in 2015, the numbers can be misleading, Wright said. Even though more money is coming in, so are the children, and in order to keep up with the growing demands on the Club, the need is great.
The work of the Elizabethton/Carter County Boys and Girls Club is important. Even beyond providing a safe place for children and offering activities, meals and snacks and help with homework, the Club is providing opportunities and experiences many of these young people would never have had otherwise.
The Club is building our community’s future, one child at a time, and they are doing an amazing job.
We encourage anyone, who hasn’t had the opportunity to see first-hand the great work Wright and her wonderful staff is doing, to stop by for a visit. We think you’ll agree that our local B&G Club is something really special, something we should all support and be very proud of.

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