I was a Boys Club of Seymour member as a youth and have had the opportunity to serve this community as an employee for the past 41 years.
“Did you see that one? It went on top of Noltings!”
In simple English, it was a home run that not only cleared the Boys Club fence. It went all of the way on top of Noltings Food Store which was located just outside the former club on South Broadway State This was the 1960s.
Most of the neighborhood parents worked at the shoe factory or shirt factory. The “Club” certainly was the hub of the neighborhood. Many parents did not own a car at that time; most walked back and forth to work.
Times have certainly changed. Most importantly, the youth of this community need your support more than ever. Children no longer walk to the club due to some of the threats out on the streets. The Boys & Girls Club, however, provides a safe place to go to after school, and the school system provides free transportation to the club.
Athletics were a big part of the club program in the 1960s. How many of you can remember which T-ball team you played on? The Raccoons, Panthers, Wildcats, Pioneers, etc.
Athletics are still a big part of the club program. But Homework Help has become another big part of the program. Children come directly from school to the club so that they have their homework and their agenda with them.
Woodshop was a big program in the 1960s. Now the club provides a computer lab for the kids to take advantage of. Summer camp was a big program in the 1960s. Now the kids take part in field trips to the Southern Indian Center for the Arts, the city recycling center or the book mobile.
In the 1960s families slept with their doors and windows open. Today, the drug epidemic is huge. Heroin, meth and prescription drugs are out of control. Drug use has increased the number of thefts and burglaries. The club has developed an anti-drug and alcohol program called SMART Moves that teaches kids how to “say no” to drugs and alcohol.
In the 1960s, fast food was nearly non-existent. Families enjoyed their meals together at the table. Today, fast food meals are consumed constantly. Obesity has grown rampantly. Each year in the U.S. unhealthy eating habits account for more than 300,000 preventable deaths.
Our Healthy Habits program teaches kids proper eating and nutrition habits and the importance of daily fitness. If children can learn these habits at an early age, the unpreventable death statistics should decline.
In the 1960s there were few cases of divorce. Most family structures consisted of two parents just like the TV show “Leave it to Beaver.” Today’s family structure is not so solid. Homes with only one parent, grandparents raising grandkids, and foster parents are very prevalent.
Today our staff plays parents for many kids at the Club. They are positive role models in the lives of many kids. They help kids with their homework. They find resources to help provide clothing for school and presents for Christmas.
There are many homes in which both parents must work to make ends meet and they still struggle to provide adequate support for their kids.
The club provides a safe place for kids to stay while the parents work. I must admit that I fit into this area too. My granddaughter attends the club daily because both of her parents must work.
To provide these valuable services it takes a lot of help. The club was a charter member of the United Fund in 1960. The United Way is a huge resource in helping to provide service for the Club. They help to coordinate schedules between partner agencies. This is vital to know what other agencies are doing. It is also vital for the community at-large in preventing big events from occurring at the same time.
The United Way is helpful in providing resources that agencies cannot receive either from their national office or locally. They hold helpful training sessions for the agencies to attend in order to provide the needed services to our members and parents.
Steve Stanfield has been executive director of Seymour Boys and Girls Club, a Jackson County United Way Agency, for 35 years. Editor’s note: This is part of a series of columns from agencies served by Jackson County United Way.