Saturday, July 22, 2017  

Planting the Seeds to Success


Academic success. Exemplary character. Responsible citizenship. Healthy lifestyles. These are the guiding principles of the 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs across America and the four million children they serve. Likewise, these concepts are the framework for the activities provided by three local Boys & Girls Clubs (Kilmarnock, Mathews  and Gloucester) serving over 1,000 young members from  the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck (BGCNN), on Main Street in Kilmarnock, serves children in Lancaster County, and has recently expanded its reach into Northumberland County. Now wrapping up its summer programs, and ramping up its school-year schedule, the club features an expansive multi-building campus with a game room, learning center, creative arts room, technology lab and a sports/fitness facility.
“Our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens,” Phillip A. Mumford, executive director, said.
An average of 130 young people per day benefit from programs offered at the club complex. This summer, attendance reached a high of 171 on a single day and an average daily attendance of 146. Membership is open to all children between the ages of 6 and 18, regardless of income. Annual dues are $45, paid in three $15 installments. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford dues.
The eight-week summer program carries a $20 per-week activity fee. Dues and fees cover about 30 percent of the cost of club activities. State and federal grants pay about 50 percent of costs and the remaining funds come from local support. Annually, the operation relies on donations from citizens, churches, businesses, civic organizations and foundations, as well as funds from the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The club has a staff of trained youth development professionals and a group of dedicated volunteers. An all-volunteer board of directors provides financial oversight for the club’s more than $500,000 annual budget.
The campus is a hive of activity in every season. During the summer, the club is open ten hours each day, five days-a-week, from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. During the school year, activities begin each weekday at 3 p.m. and wrap up around 7 p.m.
“No matter when you come here there are about a dozen things going on at the same time,” Donna Anderson, president of the BGCNN board, said.
During the summer program, the children were busy with field trips and community service projects. Daily activities rotate among academics, computer, arts, music, dance and sports. “We also like to focus on practical skills and job skills in the summer,” Mumford said. Each week was tailored to a theme which emphasized one of the club’s core values. Young members of the Oyster Club learned about the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay and how to become oyster gardeners. Scholarships were awarded to club members courtesy of The Rappahannock Art League and The Lancaster Players youth drama program. Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church, which donated funds for the club’s new mini-bus, also sponsored trips to Camp Hanover Day Camp. The Native Plant Society sent two club members to this year’s Nature Camp located in Wise, Virginia.
Summertime activities for teens were abundant. While some went fishing and crabbing, others learned how to frame a new Habitat home. Some worked with an assortment of donated fabrics, learning how to sew clothing to be sent to Haiti. Some created and served dinners through the Teen Chef program, while another group shadowed workers on a job installing a pool.
For the more sports-minded children, there was swimming at the YMCA, daily fitness programs at the club, and a teen basketball program in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia peninsula headquartered in Newport News.
Summer field trips included jaunts 
to Mt. Trashmore; science museums; 
the Hampton Air & Space Museum; Bethpage Putt Putt Golf & Swim Park; Washington, D.C.; Fun Land in Fredericksburg; as well as a college circuit trip. Club members in the BGCNN summer program enjoy breakfast, lunch and a mid-afternoon snack.
BGCNN community partners, which form the Northern Neck Coalition for Youth, include: Empowering Youth for Positive Change, the Rappahannock Area Office on Youth, Habitat for Humanity, Northern Neck Family YMCA, The Northern Neck Food Bank, Second Chance Ministries, the Lancaster Juvenile Probation Office, Lancaster Commonwealth’s Attorney, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian 
Church, and River Pools & Spas.
Also, significant contributions in support of the club’s program have come from Campbell Memorial Presbyterian Church, Grace Episcopal Church, Wicomico Parish Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Queen Esther Baptist Church, St. Mary’s Whitechapel Episcopal Church, River Counties Community Foundation, Kilmarnock Baptist Church, Kilmarnock Methodist Men’s Club, Bay Aging, the Rappahannock Area Office on Youth, the Town of Irvington, and Tri-Star Supermarket, among others.
When the school year begins, the club’s focus turns to academics, even though plenty of opportunities still exist for sports, arts and community involvement. When students arrive after the school day ends, they first receive a snack, then spend time on homework during “Power Hour.” Tutors, staff members, volunteers and designated teens work with those who need help in any particular subject. At the end of the 2014 school year, 76 club members had achieved the honor roll in local primary, secondary and high schools.
“The club has kept me out of trouble and on the right track. It’s helped me become a better person,” Alex Anderson, BGCNN alumnus, said.
After homework, children rotate by age group through the learning center, media center, arts and crafts, game room and recreation center. In each venue, they are supervised by a specific staff member and overall by a program director. Teens have their own separate space, under the supervision of the teen director. The grounds of the club are beautified by raised gardens, and a butterfly garden, built and tended by fledgling young landscapers not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Last November, as part of their continuing focus on community responsibility, 15 members of the club teamed up with the Northern Neck Wild Turkey Association to plant fruit-bearing seedling trees to provide food for wild turkeys living in Belle Isle State Park.
This fall, Northumberland County schools will provide families with the option of having their children dropped off after school at the club. In 2014-15, more than 20 students took advantage of this new connection with Northumberland County. Also starting this fall, Northumberland Middle School will be the home of the new Northumberland unit of the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck. This connection, thanks to a grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, will allow the club to provide supportive after-school programs to middle school students from across Northumberland County. The club, or the school, can provide more details on this newly developing project.
During weekdays when school is out, for holidays, inclement weather, or during school breaks, the club opens its doors to serve its members. “They teach us right from wrong, respect and responsibility,” said member Abria. “I’ve learned friendship, kindness and to be helpful. I’m a nicer person.”
The club relies heavily on community support for the success of its operations and programs through various fundraisers and its two principal events: the annual steak and burger dinner in November and the ever-popular Casino Night on the Rivah in April.
Contributions to the Boys and Girls Club are always welcome and appreciated. Donations can be mailed to BGCNN, P.O. Box 564, Kilmarnock, VA 22482; or dropped off at the club’s administrative office (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. 
to 5 p.m.) at 517 North Main Street, Kilmarnock. For questions or for further information, call (804)435-9696; or email 
For more than a century, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America have helped put young people on the path to great futures. The national club has been molding and influencing youth since 1860, and counts among its alumni hundreds of noteworthy, successful citizens like General Wesley Clark, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Shaun White and Shaquille O’Neal, to name a few.
Most recently, BGCA Alumni Hall of Fame member Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She is the first African-American female to achieve that position in the company’s 75-year history.
Given time, it’s certain that a local alumnus will make his or her positive mark upon the nation. Until then, the BGCNN continues planting the seeds of success, building good works and growing exemplary citizens.