Looking for a little encouraging news? Here’s an idea. Spend two hours – like I did on Friday – at the Boys and Girls Club and I can almost guarantee you’ll come away feeling just a little better about the world.
Let Danny Willingham, the executive director for the local club, tell you a few stories. There’s one about a lady who moved here from out of state with her children to escape from her abusive husband. She found a job, but had no one to look after her children while she worked, and was actually considering going back into the abusive situation. But for the price of three Boys and Girls Club memberships – $12 each, $36 for the three – there was a safe, supervised and extremely kid friendly place for them to go.
Or Danny might tell you how in the summer, thanks to the summer meals program, kids can get a free breakfast and lunch at the club. Some kids, Danny shared, have told him they don’t have food at home and those meals are all they get a lot of the time.
Danny knows that a lot of the success stories take a long time to develop, but across America, there’s lots of great stories. Michael Jordan? Shaquille O’Neal? Denzel Washington? Those are just three who give a lot of credit to Boys and Girls Club for providing gym space and a kid-friendly and nurturing environment that helped them become who they became.
I took the initiative for a visit to the local club on Friday because earlier in the week I’d had a call from Mariann Tackett, a Boys and Girls Club board member, who also had a neat story to tell. Always stretched for funds, the local club had taken a real hit. Donations and grant money are down about $35,000 this year, which is obviously bad news. But the somewhat good news is that club membership and attendance is at an all time high.
“It’s great that we’ve got so many kids,” Mariann said. “The club’s a good place for them to be. But the high attendance has really made us go through the limited funds that we had. We’re looking for every way we can to make expenses this year.”
One of the plans was to sell parking spaces in the Wendlee Broadcasting parking lot on Fisk during Reunion Celebration weekend. Board members became parking lot attendants, Mariann told me, and their “getting out there working” impressed at least one passerby.
Hank Hunter offered to match any of the money raised over the weekend. The board collected $771 in parking fees (and Mariann wasn’t sure how, at $5 a space they came up with an extra dollar), and Hank’s match will bring that total to $1,542.
“That was just such a generous thing for Hank to do,” Mariann told me. “It’s a wonderful example of how people help and how they make a difference.”
My short visit to the Boys and Girls Club stretched to two hours, and could have been longer if only the day had been. But at 6:30, the day at the club is supposed to end for everyone.
I was on my way out, when I saw the poster on the wall, which, Danny explained to me he’d gotten at a seminar for Boys and Girls Club directors. Riney Jordan, a Howard Payne College graduate and a deejay here for a now-forgotten radio station, had been the speaker.
Jordan encouraged those in the audience to be their best because what they do and the ways they touch the future matter very much. Each of us should make a promise to ourselves and others to do our best, and each day strive to make the best better.
“Today,” began Jordan’s words on the poster, “I will do more than I have to do; I will treat others as I want to be treated; And I will try to become a better person.”
Candace Cooksey Fulton’s column is in the Brownwood Bulletin on Sundays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.