And the local volunteers who met with Jenkins and Lee Wagner, executive director of Thomas County’s Boys & Girls Club, say they are interested, also. “I think it’s just going to be a phenomenal addition to Grady County,” says Charles Renaud, Grady County Commissioner and spirited cheerleader for the project.
“I think it would be an extremely great opportunity to have that program and organization to come into our community and to develop those skills and programs that they do so our kids could take advantage of it,” says Nola Daughtry, executive director of Grady County Children and Youth.
Along with Daughtry and Renaud on the investigative group are Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham, Cairo City Councilman Ernest Cloud, Grady County Commissioner Al Ball, Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, and Grady General Hospital Administrator LaDon Toole. Toole had served as president of the Boys & Girls Club in Quitman and was instrumental in getting that club started before moving to Cairo last year.
Before a commitment to start a club in Cairo is made, this group will make sure it has all of the information it needs to ensure the community could sustain such a program. “I think the group would like to see it happen, but we’ve got a lot more to learn to make sure it’s possible to happen,” says Mayor VanLandingham.
A possibility is that a Cairo club would operate under the management of Thomas County’s club, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, with programs held in the Holder Park building. “Facilities are important and key, but not overriding issues,” said Jenkins, “if you have the right people and staff, they (youth) will show up.”
Before Boys & Girls Clubs of America will agree to begin services at a local club, the community must have one year’s operating income in the bank. Jenkins says if the right people support the club, success is easier to come by. “You need to identify 10 to 15 people in the community to make it happen, to make a commitment to raise funds. After the doors open, you will have a struggle if you don’t have the right people behind it,” he said. Jenkins pointed out that the organization is funded not by taxes, but by donations.
VanLandingham says the loosely organized group that met Thursday has more research to do before it decides to jump on the Boys & Girls Clubs wagon, even before it organizes the necessary steering committee.
The volunteers plan to meet again in early February, according to Renaud.
“A community is only going to be as good as the people that reinvest in it,” said Jenkins, “A Boys and Girls Club is a gift a community gives its children.”