Boys & Girls Club: A Melting Pot of Area Youth
Feb 01, 2017 08:30AM
● By Jason Huddle
In 2015, the Afterschool Alliance released a survey that stated that 15.1 million U.S. children had no adult supervision after school; that was a 6 percent increase from 11 years prior. More than 50 percent of those children were from middle- and upper-class families.
The N.C. Department of Health & Human Services says, “Although there is no age specified in juvenile code that addresses the age a child may be left home alone, North Carolina fire code states that a child under the age of eight shall not be left alone without appropriate supervision due to the risk of danger by fire. Parents and caretakers must look at the child’s maturity, the safety of the community and access to emergency assistance. A child may be mature enough to stay alone, but not to care for younger siblings.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County was formed in 1946 by W.M. Waterfield, long before the economic stresses of today’s families started seeing both parents working outside the home. In fact, the original club was open to boys only and was called Concord Community Boys Club. Its temporary home was in the Concord Armory on Church Street until the Boys Club opened on Spring Street with a membership of 700. The facility was rebuilt at the same location in 2002.
Over the decades, girls and minorities were admitted to the club whose mission is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Valerie Melton has been executive director of our county’s club since 1994. She says, “The Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County provides services and programs to help boys and girls make positive life choices. From education and career programs to health and life skills, our staff and volunteers help inspire youth by providing an opportunity to belong, succeed and serve their community.
“One out of four kids leaves school every day with no place to go. These hours serve as the essential link between school and home, offering the greatest opportunity to influence the future of our youth,
our communities and our country. Boys & Girls Club programs give youth the resources and support they need to do well in school, choose healthy lifestyles and become great citizens. We offer our program to all school-age youth in our community.”
In the 1970s and ‘80s, the club’s Keystone Club sponsored a variety of athletic teams, from football to lacrosse. When Melton took the helm, the club was steered more toward after-school, teen and summer programs but the Keystone Club is still alive and well today.
“Keystone is a Boys & Girls Clubs of America national program in which high school-age youth participate – both in and out of the club – in activities in three focus areas: academic success, career preparation and community service” Melton explains. “Located in the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County, The Keystone Room is open daily with weekly meetings on Sundays and service projects throughout the year. With the guidance of Jim Helms, Keystone members aim to have a positive impact on members, the club and community.”
Helms serves as the club’s senior program director and has been part of the club for more than four decades. As founder and director of the Keystone Program, he has had a significant influence on thousands of Cabarrus County teenagers.
“Members of the Keystone Program organize and implement several special events throughout the year, including an annual blood drive and Veterans Day program,” Melton says. “Members also volunteer as tutors in the club’s Afterschool Program, and at special club events such as Pancake Day and the Festival of Trees. Our Athletic programs include basketball, football and volleyball for boys and girls ages five to 12. Our team sports teach kids good team-building skills and game fundamentals. Each program’s ultimate goal is to ensure that all youth have an enjoyable experience every time they step onto the field or court.”
Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County has an annual membership of about 2,000 youth with more than 400 kids from kindergartners to high school seniors participating in club activities daily.
“We currently transport kids from 17 area schools with our buses,” Melton adds.” Last year we enrolled over 1,000 youth in our Afterschool and Summer programs, providing close to 1 million hours of services. Our Athletic Program serves an additional 700 youth, and the Keystone Teen Program serves another 200 youth.”
The Boys & Girls Club Afterschool Program operates through the academic year, Monday through Friday, from 2:30 to 6:30pm. Afterschool programs include the Learning Center, Technology Center, three gyms, a middle school room, and Games, Life Skills, Performing Arts and Arts & Crafts rooms.
The club’s Summer Program runs Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 6:30pm, from June through August. Offered to rising 1st through rising 9th graders, breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack are included at no extra cost. Besides the aforementioned club amenities, kids take weekly field trips and spend a few weeks at Camp Spencer.
Camp T.N. Spencer Park is located off Rimer Road in Concord. A private summer camp for the Boys & Girls Club since the 1940s, it was dedicated as a public county park in 2003 but still serves as part of the Boys & Girls Club Summer Program.
As a non-profit, the club relies on donations, grants and volunteerism to continue to offer our county’s children the programs and activities under its umbrella. One of the most popular fundraisers is Pancake Day, being held on March 16 this year. From 6:00am to 7:30pm, club board members, staff and volunteers cook pancakes and sausage for some 5,000 hungry appetites at the facility.
And there is always a need for help. “If you are interested in inspiring, motivating and impacting young lives, you can become a Boys & Girls Club volunteer,” Melton says. “We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, including tutoring, mentoring, coaching, special events, administrative assistance and more. To become a volunteer, contact the club to schedule volunteer orientation. Most importantly, we need the financial support to be able to continue to provide our programs to the increasing number of youth in our community.
“Our mission clearly states, ‘all young people.’ We are committed to this mission. The results can be seen in the diversity of all areas of our membership. We are often referred to as a ‘melting pot’ of youth in Cabarrus County. Our current membership includes a cross-section of the youth population in terms of gender, age, and socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. We are serving youth who are most in need.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County is located 247 Spring Street N.W., in Concord. For more information, call 704-721-2582
Article By: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County