Boys & Girls Club serves the needs of community’s kids

Published 8:41 am Thursday, July 5, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles that will highlight local non-profit organizations which serve our community.

For many of the children who attend the Boys & Girls Club, the club is not just a place to spend time with their friends. It is a place where they can get a nutritious meal, help with their homework, and an experience they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to enjoy.

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The Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County provides a variety of educational and recreational opportunities for its members, according to the Club’s Executive Director Ginny Wright.

“We will serve well over 500 kids in a year, and that doesn’t include our sports programming,” Wright said.

The Club is currently averaging around 180 kids a day right now for their summer program. During the school year, the Club serves a little over 100 kids on average a day after the kids get out of school.

The mission of the Boys & Girls Club of America organization is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. To achieve that mission, the local clubs focus programming in areas such as character and citizenship, education, physical activity and healthy lifestyles, and nutrition.

Here in Elizabethton, the local club has those same goals for the children they serve, but often find themselves constrained by financial issues when it comes to providing what they feel would best benefit the club’s members.

“It’s expensive to do it right, which is how we want to do it,” Wright said.

The local club has an annual budget of around $580,000. With only about $60,000 coming in from membership fees, the Club relies heavily on fundraising efforts and support from local governments, businesses, and donors to keep the programs running for the children.

“To really run more of an ideal program we started at $780,000 and whittled it down to the $580,000,” Wright said. “It was not a fun process to cut that down because these kids need this.”

“Our kids have a ton of needs we want to address,” Wright continued. “We are proud of our program and what we’ve been able to do, don’t get me wrong, but we are only scratching the surface of what we can do for these kids.”

One of the newest programs launched by the club was made possible by a generous donation from former Dallas Cowboys football player, and Elizabethton Boys & Girls Club alumnus, Jason Witten. Through his foundation, Witten made a substantial contribution to the Club for the creation of a literacy program.

“It is set up to help at-risk readers gain those literacy skills over the summer,” said Elizabeth Williams, Resource Development & Marketing Director for the Club.

Local school systems, as well as the Tennessee Department of Education, have launched a push to have every student reading at or above grade level by the time they leave third grade to help improve their chances of success as they continue their education.

While the program at the Boys & Girls Club is not identical to the literacy initiatives in the local schools, both Williams and Wright touted their program as complimenting the efforts of the schools. The Club contracted with a certified teacher to work with the club members enrolled in the program.

Another focus over the summer months when school is out of session is the “Summer Brain Gains” program which helps ensure the club members are staying active intellectually as well as physically during their break from school.

One area the Club would like to begin focusing more attention on is finding better ways to serve the club’s teen members and serving more of the community’s teenagers. The Club is currently working with teens through the “Career Launch” program where they help the members improve their “soft skills” and better prepare them for success when they head into the workforce. Some of the areas of focus are those things which students don’t pick up in the classroom, such as appropriate business attire, letter writing, applications and resumes, attendance and punctuality, appropriate cell phone use, and communicating with other employees and supervisors.

But, as with any expansion or new offering, much of what the Club can offer to its members will depend on whether or not the funding is there to support it.

During the past few years, the Club has seen success and growth through its fundraising efforts, and while Club officials are proud of that success, they want to make sure the community knows there is more yet to be accomplished.

“There is so much that we will not be able to do without continued support and increased support,” Williams said.

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County, contact the Club at 423-543-2946 or visit their website