The Meridian Star
The Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi is celebrating 25 years of helping area children.
The agency's board of directors, staff and volunteers aren't looking back, however. They are setting new goals to expand the program throughout Lauderdale County and East Mississippi; to provide transportation so more children can participate; and to improve resource development and marketing.
One of the biggest obstacles is educating the public about the club.
"What we're trying to do is to get people to really know who we are and what we do, and the possibilities of our program if it's really fully funded and have the complete support of the community," the club's executive director, Ricky Hood, told The Star recently. "We're trying to get them to understand that we are part of the solution."
Everyone is concerned about educating youths and providing them the skills and direction needed to better their lives. The Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi does that and more.
Among other things, the club provides after-school tutoring, computer assisted instruction, workshops on gang prevention, conflict resolution, self-esteem, goal setting, personal hygiene, and various health care issues, fitness and nutrition, drugs, alcohol, and teenage pregnancy prevention, music, summer enrichment program, educational trips, leadership training, job training, and recognition programs.
The club also conducts sports leagues in baseball, football, softball, and basketball. Without these leagues, the majority of the participants would not be involved because of lack of funds, transportation or support. The leagues have become a vital part of the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi's operation, mainly because they serve as an incentive for good grades and behavior.
All children are eligible to participate in the club's programs. There are no income or other requirements.
"That's one of things that makes us unique," Hood said.
Not only does the organization provide a plethora of services, it does it very well.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America serves about 4 million youths annually at some 4,000 clubs throughout the country and at U.S. military installations worldwide. Forbes magazine listed the organization among the top five "all-stars" charities in the country — and there is a reason for that.
Boys and Girls clubs have a proven track record of helping at-risk children to succeed.
Actor Denzel Washington, NBA superstar Magic Johnson and singer Jennifer Lopez are just three of a long, long list of entertainers, athletes and business men and women who have attributed much of their success to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Many have asked what can be done to address the issue of youth crime in Meridian. The Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi provides real-world solutions to do just that.
The club offers a safe and caring environment where at-risk children are given a sense of belonging and taught personal accountability, civility and civic responsibility through positive reinforcement.
We can do our part by helping financially and volunteering our time.
"We're going to continue throughout this year educating the community through one-on-one meetings with our business community, churches and organizations – not just advocating for Boys and Girls Club, but also advocating for children to let people see how they can help and get involved with the program," Hood said.
By helping a child to succeed, we help our community to succeed. That's a win-win for everybody.