“The mission of Boys and Girls Clubs is to enable young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” relates Emily Pinkerton, director of development.
Boys Clubs of America was started in 1860 by four women. They believed that boys roaming the streets of Hartford, Conn., needed a positive alternative — one that would build character. In 1906 the Club affiliated as a national non-profit organization, and by 1990, the name changed to the Boys & Girls Club. Today the National Club is the parent organization to 5,000 Boys & Girls Clubs.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia (BGCSWVA) opened its doors 25 years ago. Since 1997, it has grown to 11 clubs serving more than 1,000 youths annually in five municipalities throughout Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery counties. Staff members, volunteers, partners and board members believe in the potential of every child.
Join the Club!
Boys and girls from kindergarten through high school are welcome to join a local Club. Most Clubs meet in a public school, and school buses provide transportation. After-school activities start around 2 p.m. and run until 6 or 7 p.m..
When you see kids spill from buses and run to the Club, you know they enjoy the program. Spending time with different age kids provides variety, learning and fun.
• monitored computer time
• game rooms
(foosball and air hockey)
• time to chat or shoot hoops
• “power hour” with tutors
• youth development programs
• healthy lifestyle activities like
gardening and cooking
• substance abuse avoidance
• good character and citizenship
• conflict resolution
Club members provided more than 2,000 hours of community service in 2022. Another program is the Passport to Manhood, helping boys grow into men. The Clubs work with schools to identify those with the most need, and family referrals are accepted. The board and administrative staff are constantly exploring opportunities to expand services.
Critical mentorship is offered for career development, resume writing, job shadowing, and exposure to career paths. Soon-to-be-graduates take college tours. Many Club members may be the first in their families to attend college and need someone to guide them.
The Money Side
While there are program fees, most Club families pay little to nothing for membership. Thanks to 21st Century Grant funding, all the Montgomery County Clubs provide services without charge.
Clubs have a fee structure. In locales without 21st Century grants, those who can pay $15/week (maximum) during the school year and $65/week for the summer program. Clubs consider a household’s income, offer scholarship assistance, and never turn away a family which cannot pay.
Approximately 80% of the Club’s financial support comes from state and federal funding. The national organization and local United Way contribute some, with corporate and individual donations making up around 18%.
The 21st Century Grant operates on a 3-year cycle. If turned down, locations wait one year to reapply. Without that funding, services may be curtailed. “The need to support families is there, and it would be tragic to have to close a location. A year’s-worth of funding in a rainy day account is essential to sustain our operations, so we rely on the support of local communities,” Pinkerton explains.
BGCSWVA is always looking for volunteers! There are opportunities to help with events and assist with homework. Local artisans can teach classes or give demonstrations; theater groups can perform or conduct workshops. One partnership with Virginia Tech’s Robotics Club teaches robot theater to Eastern Montgomery Elementary School Club members. Businesses can offer internships, tours or on-the-job training.
Youth of the Year
There is a national-level leadership competition each year for Club members 14 to 18 years old. The Youth of the Year competition begins locally, where candidates are interviewed, and a winner is selected. Winners progress to state, regional and national competitions. State and state-level winners receive scholarships from $2,500 to $50,000. The current Youth of the Year is New River Valley’s Ashton, an Eastern Montgomery High School junior. She serves as a role model and a representative in the community.
In “another life” Jo Clark wrote grants, created fundraisers and taught in middle and high schools plus colleges. Now you’ll find her writing, traveling and taking photos. Instagram as @JoGoesEverywhere, and
Text by Jo Clark
Photos courtesy of:
Boys & Girls Clubs of SWVA