Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee Makes a Difference in Kids’ Lives
With plenty of free time on their hands between 3 p.m. when they get out of school and 7 p.m. when many of their parents arrive home from work, there are numerous options for children and teenagers.
Unfortunately, many of those options are unhealthy. Some are even dangerous. Fortunately, there is another choice.
It’s the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. This after-school program gives young people constructive ways to spend those hours. It also teaches them values many carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Living testaments to how this organization can shape lives include former members such as athletes Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield. Plus entertainers Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Usher and Ashanti.
Dating Back Many Years
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The roots of the organization actually go much farther back. In 1860, the first Boys’ Club was founded in 1860 in Harford, Connecticut.
Some 45 years later, more than 50 independent Boys’ Clubs formed a national organization called the Federated Boys’ Clubs.
The organization was renamed Boys’ Clubs of America in 1931. Finally in 1990, girls were added and the name Boys & Girls Clubs of America was chosen.
Now More Than 4,000 Clubs
Today, well over 4,000 local clubs are affiliates of the national organization.
The clubs, located in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and U.S. military bases, serve more than 4 million boys and girls. More than 50,000 staff members work at these local clubs.
This highly regarded nonprofit has frequently been named the number one youth organization by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Boys & Girls Clubs of America is an official charity of Major League Baseball.
Serving as a national spokesperson for the organization since 1993 is actor and former member Denzel Washington.
Reaching Kids Where They Live
One of the chapters of this organization is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee. It includes 11 clubs in Davidson and Williamson counties. This chapter serves some 4,700 young people between the ages of 5 and 18.
Bonnie St. Martin is the chapter’s marketing and grants manager. Among her many responsibilities on the resource development team is securing funds from donors, foundations and corporate partners.
“I’m fortunate to be on such a fantastic team,” said St. Martin, who has more than 10 years of experience in marketing and development.
“Boys & Girls Clubs has a really inspiring creation story. A group of women – Mary Goodwin, Alice Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersley – believed that boys who roamed the streets should have a safe haven that captured their interests, improved their behavior and increased their personal experiences and goals.
“And since then, Boys & Girls Clubs of America continues to evolve and serve more and more youth each year. In fact, the organization strategically places Club locations in high-risk areas, where the need is greatest for our Middle Tennessee youth.
Wide Variety of Programs
Among the many programs offered are Project Learn. It includes homework help, tutoring, reading, writing, discussions with knowledgeable adults and games that help develop their cognitive skills.
Others are Healthy Habits, including physical activities and nutrition information. And Youth of the Year, featuring community service and public speaking training.
Plus Youth for Unity, emphasizing diversity. And Nashville RBI, designed to revive baseball and softball in the inner city.
As well as Notes for Notes, providing kids with free access to musical instruments and recording studio environments.
Pandemic Produces Challenges
Like just about everything else, Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee has been affected by COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, during the first stages of quarantine, BGCMT was forced to close its Club locations for a short amount of time,” St. Martin said. “Thankfully, during this time we were able to offer virtual programs, distribute free meals to families in need, and offer Zoom mentorship meetings with Club directors and our Club kids.
“Online programs included movement videos with local fitness experts, how-to activity and science segments, our Let’s Go Learn program and more.”
We teamed up with Middle Tennessee trainers who posted videos and we did story time through YouTube.
“Thankfully, we were able to re-open three of our Club locations for summer camp in May. All open Clubs follow strict social distancing practices along with CDC- recommended COVID-19 safety guidelines.”
4Patriots Donates to Fundraiser
One of the ways the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee raises funds for its programs is its annual gala featuring live and silent auctions.
Last year the Great Futures Gala raised $556,000 to operate core youth development programs.
This year’s event will be a virtual experience between 7:30-9 p.m. on October 2, due to COVID-19. It will feature more than 200 live and silent auction items. Including a guitar signed by Taylor Swift. 4Patriots has also donated Patriot Power Cells and HaloXT flashlights for the auction.
Performing will be multi-platinum country music singer and songwriter Chris Young. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, he has sold 12 million singles through the years. Including chart-toppers such as Losing Sleep, Sober Saturday Night, Think of You and I’m Comin’ Over.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee should visit www.bgcmt.org and click on the “Donate Now!” button.