New Boys and Girls facility gives at-risk kids a safe place to realize their potential
What do Jennifer Lopez, Kenny Rogers and Denzel Washington have in common? They all owe their success in part to their membership in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a national nonprofit organization that provides safe, after-school programs for kids and teens all across the country.
Thanks to a partnership between the Boys & Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County and the Housing Authority of Glasgow, club members have a new, bigger space that will give them the tools to succeed in their own lives.
Gearing Up for Growth
The partnership was a natural one, given the fact that 76 percent of children served by the Housing Authority are also served by the Boys & Girls Club.
The aptly named HERO Center – a 21,000-square-foot facility that features classrooms, a computer lab, game room, and a gymnasium outfitted with batting cages, volleyball nets and two basketball courts – gives the club more space for its after-school and summer programs. It continues a legacy of helping children started by club founders Ruel and Nell Houchens.
“It’s a caring, nurturing and values-teaching organization where young people are given what they need to be successful in life,” says Bob Cary, chairman of the club’s board of directors. “The club provides a way to give children individual attention, particularly for grades and homework and just performing better in a school situation because of the way the programs are designed.”
The club serves kids, ages 6-18, through organized athletics, mentoring and educational programs that are also affordable for low-income families.
At the Top of Its Class
According to Patrick Gaunce, one of the club’s original benefactor and continual champion, the BGC has helped its members increase their grade point averages.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the data that shows that kids who enroll in the Boys & Girls Club and stay in the program have grade averages that go up at least a letter or more,” Gaunce says.
“That’s significant because in the state of Indiana, for example, officials look at third-grade reading scores when budgeting for prisons because studies show that there is a correlation between the percent of students reading below a third-grade level and the number of prisoners in the future.”
But more importantly, he says the club’s programs, such as the Journey Into Manhood mentoring program for males, teaches kids those “soft skills” like good manners, chivalry, leadership and cooperation.
“I mentored a young man for over three years, and he’s doing really really well,” Cary says. “I’m so proud of him. He got himself focused, does well in school, does well in athletics, and he’s just exhibiting leadership traits that are going to serve him well in his life.”
Since its inception in 2006, club membership has risen from around 25 to 285 on a daily basis. The rapid growth inspired a capital campaign to raise $5 million by the end of 2014. At press time, the group had raised $4.2 million. The funds will help finish construction of a cafeteria and kitchen at the new HERO center.