This was a very special and important few days in my life and in my short tenure at BGCA. Special for so many reasons and significant due to the internalization of the work we all do.
The economic downturn of the past several years has brought hardships to many Mississippi Boys & Girls Clubs, not dissimilar to what Clubs across the nation have faced. Still, the resilience and commitment of every board volunteer and staff member I met came through loud and clear. I couldn’t help but see the despair and challenge in the eyes of Club members, but also the hope and opportunity they hold so close for a brighter future. Clearly, the fortitude of these youth and their sheer tenacity to overcome obstacles of almost insurmountable magnitude was impressive. My heart was heavy, but lifted at every interaction by the local community’s efforts to make a difference.
Kelton Holman, Youth of the Year, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta.
It was a thrill to join the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta for their 10th anniversary gala at the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood. The organization also recently doubled its number of board volunteers using a recruitment plan modeled on the Formula for Impact. Chief Professional Officer Jeremy Deming welcomed the significant crowd that came to reaffirm their commitment to our youth and the future. Kelton Holman, the Club’s Youth of the Year, gave me a full overview of challenges and opportunities facing area teens. We also did a TV interview together for a local news station. Later, Kelton introduced me to several Club teens, an impressive group of kids who clearly have the potential for great futures.
Incidentally, Greenwood is where the movie The Help was made, a source of considerable local pride. I rented the movie the following weekend and found it profound and moving. I encourage you to view it if you haven’t already.
The city of Batesville was the next stop for a focus group with area board volunteers, staff members and community leaders. Their strongest point: the need for Clubs to be America’s #1 agency and advocate for child protection and safety. I could not agree more. We also discussed sustainability, training, technology and outcome measurement – all priorities for BGCA. Special thanks to Belinda Morris, executive director of the NW Mississippi Club, for hosting this meeting.
Youth of the Year Wilmonique Huff, Boys & Girls Club of Washington County.
The day’s final visit was to the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, where local Youth of the Year Wilmonique Huff greeted me with a phenomenal drum solo! She and longtime member MaKendrick Todd then showed me around the facility. It isn’t new or very big, but the care and love poured into every square foot this Club is obvious and tremendous. Director Joan Rowe is a treasure. She’s run the Club for years and is like a surrogate mom to these kids. And after experiencing her hospitality and cooking, I think she’ll be my surrogate mom, as well.
The optimism, energy and commitment of our Club leaders and kids never fail to inspire hope in me, for our nation and its next generation of citizens and leaders. Thank you to my hosts for this enriching experience. Great futures are most definitely being developed in Mississippi!