August 10, 2021

My work got a request to help the Boys & Girls Club that operates in our local school district by providing games, and sport equipment, and balls.  The Mountainburg Boys & Girls Club was started in 2019 and is the first after school program for youth in the city.  The club is located inside the Mountainburg Elementary School but is open to children K-12.  The Mountainburg schools’ partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Diamond Hills to offer the After School Program for students.  The program is provided free for students attending Mountainburg Schools, and is open 3 pm – 6 pm, Monday – Friday while school is in session.  The Club is closed when Mountainburg Schools are closed.   Supper and snacks are provided, and transportation is available for youth from Middle School and High School.  This provides two essentials: safety, and nutrition.

When I checked online, I found the Boys & Girls Clubs of America had its beginnings in Hartford, Connecticut, during 1860.  Mary Goodwin, Alice Goodwin, and Elizabeth Hammersley believed the boys who roamed the streets should have a positive alternative, and they organized the first Club.  While the cornerstone of the experience was designed as character development, the Club focused on capturing boy’s interests, improving their behavior, and increasing their personal expectations and goals.  The mission of the national club is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”  Over the years, the clubs were opened to include girls as well as boys.  To recognize this inclusion, the organization’s name was changed to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1990, and Congress amended and renewed the charter.

The local club has changed just as did the national.  In September 2018 the Alma Club was contacted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Office regarding merging the Boys & Girls Club of the Alma Area and the Boys & Girls Club of Paris.  After discussing with the Board of Directors at both Clubs it was agreed that the Clubs would merge.  Shortly after deciding to merge the two clubs the Mountainburg School District reached out about opening an after-school program in the city, and the Mountainburg Boys & Girls Club became a Unit of the Alma Club in August 2019.  In October 2019 the Boys & Girls Club of the Alma Area and the Boys & Girls Club of Paris finalized merging and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Diamond Hills was born.  The Mountainburg Unit is the only club of the three which is school based, with the other two units housed in off-site locations. 

Thoughts:  Safety of young people is a stated priority at every Boys & Girls Clubs location.  Youth who are mentally and physically safe are better able to learn, grow, and thrive.  This is supported by background checks for workers and volunteers and mandatory reporting at all the clubs.  This need was once more proven during turmoil of 2020.  The national and local Clubs worked together to provide a national support strategy to serve local communities during this global pandemic, recognizing now more than ever providing meals, programming, and support to those who need it most is mission critical.  While the clubs can provide support, children also need a stable home environment.  When this is not available the children will suffer.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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