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The Boys & Girls Club of Central GA; having a positive impact on over 1400 local children

Help support the Boys & Girls Club by purchasing a ticket to the first annual Youth of the Year Celebration and Hall of Fame Induction on Feb. 9. Tickets are $50 per person and includes dinner, with all proceeds going to The Club.

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“Kids are by far stronger than adults,” says Kristine Steinmann, Vice President of Operations and Program Services at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia. “Adults will give up on something in a heartbeat. If you give a kid a task, and you give them the right kind of encouragement, they won’t give up. They’ll keep going until they meet that goal.” Steinmann has been with the Boys & Girls Club for over 11 years now, and she’s seen a lot of evidence to support her statement. The organization has been active in central Georgia for over 80 years, going through a series of name and location changes and other shifts; this past year over 1400 local children were involved in the club’s six locations (five in Macon, one in Warner Robins).

The Boys & Girls Club is “one of the most complete youth development programs,” says Steinmann – their mission is to enable young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens, and they reach those goals in a multifaceted way. Clubs are open each day after school from 3-7 pm – known as the most vulnerable hours for juvenile crime to occur because of the potential lack of parental supervision. (During the summer, clubs are open daily from 7:30 am – 6 pm.) At the club, there are snacks and food available so nobody goes hungry, there’s accountability in the form of staff members who take the time to know and interact positively with each kid, and there are a variety of programs designed to help with development and education in remarkably well-rounded ways. Academic help and tutoring is available, and there are courses designed to educate students in financial literacy, healthy lifestyle choices, leadership and community service, and so much more. Volunteers are on hand many days, teaching sessions on cool things like Lyricism 101 or coding. “A majority of these kids are from low income areas,” says Steinmann, “and we’re trying to give them access to info they might not otherwise get.”

Rebecca Richard, who has recently been named BGC’s Vice President of Development and Marketing, is new to the Boys & Girls Club – prior to accepting this position, she worked in Atlanta managing a nonprofit that helped families in need with rent, utilities, food, transportation, and shelter. “At that job, I learned that kids can’t do their homework if the lights aren’t on at home,” Richard says. “Wraparound services are so important, and I’m happy and excited to see the other side of this social service that we can provide.”

The positive impact that these programs have on students’ lives is undeniable. According to a recent program evaluation, 94% of Boys & Girls Club after school program members moved ahead to their next grade level, and 95% completed all their daily homework assignments. Each year, the Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia selects several nominees for Youth of the Year – someone who has shown outstanding character, and who has dedicated themselves to academic and leadership success and overcome challenges at home and in the community – to receive a $1000 college scholarship and move on to compete in state, regional, and national Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year competitions for additional scholarship funds.

This year, the Youth of the Year award winner will be announced at the Youth of the Year Celebration and Hall of Fame Induction, held on Thursday, February 9 at 6:30 pm at the Anderson Conference Center in Macon. This is the first year the Boys & Girls Club has had a Hall of Fame, and its initial inductees are two Maconites who have contributed greatly to the youth of central Georgia – Mr. Bobby Pope and Ms. Zelma Redding. Mr. Pope, former athletic director at Mercer University, has for years hosted a golf tournament fundraiser that benefits the BGC, and Ms. Redding, along with the Otis Redding Foundation, offers financial contributions to the BGC and partners with them to sponsor children to attend the Otis Music Camp each summer. The Celebration will also feature special celebrity guests Coach Bill Curry and actor Gregory Allen Williams. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner; all proceeds go to the Boys & Girls Club. To purchase tickets, visit www.bgccg.org.

BGC is always looking for volunteers to teach their talent or special interest to kids in the after school programs; of particular interest at the moment is someone with a background in photography to teach photography/photo editing, and they’re also looking for additional teachers for their Lyricism 101 course. If you’re someone with experience rapping or doing spoken word poetry, or someone who’s good behind a camera, and you’d like to make a positive impact on the lives of kids in our community, get in touch with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia via their website or Facebook page. “Kids still feel like they can make a difference, like they can own the world,” says Steinmann. “Helping them cultivate that passion and seeing them realize what a difference they actually CAN make, and what a big deal that is – that’s just amazing, there’s nothing else like it.”

– Traci Burns

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