Boys and Girls Club takes off
The Union County Boys & Girls Club has a new director and is continuing to expand its presence in the county.
Chris Brown has been at the helm of the chapter since December. Prior to that, he worked with the YMCA in Fort Mill, S.C.
Growing up in Charlotte, he participated in the Milton Road club.
“(I had) plenty of influence from different people in the community,” Brown said.
The club has grown to 403 members, with an average of 60 kids a day, most of them are from elementary and middle schools.
“That’s perfect for us because it keeps us on our toes still...but is not overwhelming for staff,” Brown said.
Latoya Medley is an intern on the staff. She has been there for about three months and is a student at South Piedmont Community College.
When choosing her internship, she chose the boys and girls club.
“I have a desire to work with kids,” Medley said. She hopes to work with kids in her future and wanted to get a feel for it.
It was more than she expected, she said. She learned that you have to be firm with them, you cannot come in and be funny.
“I hope they learn to be very respectable,” Medley said. Of the staff and each other, she added.
She likes that the club is fun, but comes with structure.
The club is still in its foundation stage, Brown explained. They are assessing the wants and needs of the kids in the program. Plans to expand the club into other parts of the county are still in the works as they look for community partnerships.
As they grow, they are looking for volunteers, community members to come make presentations to the kids and healthy snack donations.
“I can’t tell you how much that helps out,” Brown said.
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In February, members of the community came to give a black history month presentation.
“That’s what we’re always looking for,” Brown said. He wants the kids to learn something, but still have fun.
In his first three months, Brown finds he enjoys working with the children the most.
“The kids are hilarious,” Brown said. Every day there is something they bring up, he added.
He has seen a change in some of the children in the time he has been there.
“There are some that are making better decisions,” Brown said.
Tim Bagley’s son, eight-year-old David Bagley, has been coming to the club for five or six months.
“He loves it,” Bagley said.
Sometimes he has difficulty getting his son to leave when he picks him up, Bagley said.
Bagley was involved with the club when he was growing up. He likes that it gives his son some structure. His son David is learning to work well with others, he said, something he struggled with in the past. He is also learning to respect people.
“(He is) more helpful,” Bagley said.
Bagley hopes his son is involved with the club in the future.
Some of the older children are stepping in to help with the younger kids, Brown said.
Alexis Crowder, 11, is a sixth-grade student at Monroe Middle School. She has been in the club for about a year.
“I like that...I can come here and have fun,” Crowder said.
She said the staff helps her. For instance, she used to get mad at people and they helped her not to get mad.
She plans to keep coming to the club as she gets older.
The group recently started a gospel choir and are starting a book club soon. They also run programs about avoiding peer pressure and other issues facing children.
“Right now we’re trying to break in the programs slowly but surely,” Brown said.
Their goal is to eventually have four year-round programs and some seasonal ones.
Jordan White, 12, likes playing basketball at the club. He is a sixth-grade student at Monroe Middle School. He has been coming to the club for about a year.
“They help us with our homework,” White said when asked what he liked about the club. He also enjoys the “fun activities.”
The club is helping White’s grades. He said they have been going up.
Going to the club has taught him that “it’s good to help other people and be nice,” he said. The club also taught him how to have better sportsmanship.
Brown is excited to see the club grow and to help the children in the county.
“This is what I wanted,” Brown said. “I am truly happy doing this job...(it is) so worth it.”