Written by Lindsey McClain, Chamber Intern
To outsiders, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County might just look like a jumble of kids playing and having fun, but really it is children who are being positively shaped by their experiences and interactions. Three priorities shape the mission of the Boys & Girls Club and act as the guiding principles of every program, activity, and project: academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and citizenship. Through opportunities made at these clubs, children ages 6-18 learn how to socialize with others, how to take care of their bodies, and complete their homework. The staff see daily the impact they have not only on children’s lives, but also the community as a whole.
Alicia Painter has spent eleven years at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County, beginning first as a camp counselor and now serving as the CEO. She has moved up through nearly every position at the clubs which means she understands the ins and outs of the organization. Her passion growing up was to work with kids and become a teacher, but after seeing the work of the Boys and Girls Club, she became more involved with her community and the impact she can have. Alicia said she loves being able to “fulfill a community need” and there is no better place to achieve this than at the Boys & Girls Club. She’s proud of a lot of their accomplishments: coat drives, community events, affordable after-school programming, new locations, and so much more. For their club members especially, she loves that they have the chance to connect with kids from other schools and backgrounds. She wants her members to learn leadership, sportsmanship, and the importance of giving back to their community. These are skills her staff works on every day and principles she continues to see growing.
Membership to the Boys & Girls Club for one child is just $15 dollars a year. This makes it an accessible after-school program for low-income families, working parents, and those whose children love the club. With the $15 dollars, a child has access to after-school open programming until 6:30 PM. They will have the freedom to play or learn in their choice of the game room, gym, classroom, or library. They are also provided with an after-school snack, one on one tutoring, and access to a number of leadership-based groups. This same money also allows children to attend Club Fun in the summer, where members have access to all the usual activities and are provided a free lunch. In addition to this membership there are several additional programs that parents can choose from, as well as optional groups that members can join.
The Boys & Girls Club hosts a myriad of programs for every interest. The A.M. Powerup summer package is hosted every weekday at the Jeffers and McDaniel units, giving kids ages 6-10 their choice of Club Fit, Game Time, or STEAM. Club Fit is hosted in the unit gyms and focuses on physical activity and moving your body. It aligns with the club’s goals of fostering good sportsmanship, social skills, and the prioritization of healthy lifestyles. Game Time and STEAM are also popular options that give kids the ability to be creative and learn about the world around them. STEAM, especially, focuses on science, technology, and education. In this group, members conduct science experiments, use technology, and even learn about plants and animals. The Boys & Girls Club also makes a priority of getting kids outside and moving. Camp Guy is a summer program that does just this. Hosted on a private 168-acre camp, children spend most of their time outdoors, learning both new skills and new games. Because BGCWC serves such an extended age range of children, they all have differing developmental needs. Programs like Lead for children and teens 11+ have just as many engaging activities, without the weekly themes of the younger groups. The list of opportunities goes on and on with programs like Torch Club, Indiana Kids, Smart Kids, and Healthy Habits. Children learn skills like volunteering, fundraising, career development, and staying healthy. Their prevention programming efforts have been implemented in local school curriculum and made into a priority at their clubs.
As the CEO, Alicia focuses heavily on professional development, team building, and staff communication. It is the reason why they can serve so many members all over the county. With five separate facilities and the many programs being offered, they need staff who are passionate about their work and dedicated to their duties. They need to know why they work there–why it is important to them. Because of this, monthly all staff meetings consist of “What is Your Why?”, a question that each staff member answers and shares with the group. This not only reminds other coworkers of their own reasons for working there, but also reminds themselves of the important work they’re doing. Additional training for staff’s physical, social, and emotional needs has also been implemented with a program called the Wellbeing Project. All of this is done to ensure that not only do the members have the best experience possible, with the most knowledgeable staff, but that also staff needs are met. One of the many stand out employees is Sam Reed, the education coordinator at the First Bank Unit of the Boys & Girls Club. She currently runs the STEAM program where she teaches and supervises science experiments, games, and projects. Sam loves working with kids and to her, it is what makes the job so special and rewarding. At the Boys & Girls Club, she believes it is the atmosphere and culture that is not like any other. She says, “I’ve never worked for an organization that was this community focused.”
The impact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County has had on the community is far reaching. Their ability to partner with our schools and offer transportation from three school districts, as well as operate multiple club locations, has allowed them to impact more youth. Their goal is to continue this growth so that every parent and child can access the clubs. Guidance is important for the development of the community's children, and the Boys & Girls Clubs have been able to offer that through every stage of childhood. However, none of this would be possible without the help of determined staff, dedicated volunteers, and committed board and trustee members, who all believe in the mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County.
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