After earning a business degree from Indiana Central College in 1974, Steve Stanfield had intentions of making a career in the banking industry.

One day, he was walking through a park in Seymour when Harry Cherry, executive director of the Boys Club, saw him and asked if he had found a job yet.

Cherry said he had an opening for assistant director at the club, and Stanfield took him up on the offer.

Two days after he started working at the club, a bank called and offered him a job, but Stanfield was happy with his new career path.

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“I just didn’t think I could back out at the time, and I didn’t,” he said.

Cherry planned to retire in six years, and he told Stanfield if he could manage the job, work with the board of directors and do a good job, he could step into the executive director’s role.

Stanfield assumed that position in 1980 and held it until retiring Friday.

He said he thought about retiring 10 years ago but chose to stay around. Then two years ago, he told the board he planned to retire when he was 65.

“You never know when your time is up, and I wanted to enjoy retirement, and I wanted to enjoy it when I could enjoy it,” he said.

Overall, Stanfield worked at the club for 43 years, including the past 37 as executive director. It has been known as the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour since the mid-1990s.

Years before, Stanfield started as a member of the club. The Seymour native said his father signed him up when he was 6, and he remained a member until he graduated from Seymour High School in 1970.

At the time, the Boys Club was along South Broadway Street, three blocks away from where Stanfield lived.

He said he was big into sports, including T-ball, basketball, flag football, and he made an all-star team and got to travel to other clubs and play.

“We traveled around, and I met lifelong friends at the club,” he said. “At my retirement session (recently), I talked about my first friend ever who lived three blocks down from me, Bill Owens. We are lifelong friends, and we met at the club.”

The Boys Club opened in Seymour in 1947, and Mike Kreska was the executive director until 1957. Cherry then took over through 1980, when Stanfield became the third executive director.

As assistant director, Stanfield coached basketball teams that traveled around the state playing in tournaments.

“My secondary position, if I didn’t get into banking, I had thought about teaching and coaching, so that fell into my interests,” he said. “The fact that I had been a club kid, I really fell right in with very little coaching from anybody because I had been in the program before.”

The national organization’s name changed to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1990, and Stanfield said the Seymour club became coed in the mid-1990s when it moved to its current location at 950 N. O’Brien St. That change also required him to hire a couple of female staff members.

One of the biggest changes over the years has related to funding. In the beginning, Stanfield said the club was 100 percent funded by the United Way, and annual memberships cost between 60 cents and $1.

When the club moved to its 25,000-square-foot facility, the United Way gave its blessing but told Stanfield it couldn’t fund what he needed, so the membership cost increased over the years and the club became a fundraising organization.

The annual fundraiser has gone from a duck race to a raffle to now receiving part of the proceeds from Dancing with the Seymour Stars, and memberships now cost $100 for the school year and $100 for the summer.

Stanfield said the club was fully funded and had a budget of around $80,000 when he started, but they now have to raise more than half of their $450,000 annual budget.

Also, with the United Way recently changing its funding process, the club has transitioned to research-based programs with measurable outcomes. Now, there are more classroom activities at the club.

“If there’s something we don’t do well, it’s marketing,” Stanfield said. “We know what we do, and we do a lot of things. The problem is we’re not telling the community what we’re doing, so with the outcomes-based stuff through United Way, this will probably promote us a little bit better.”

The club and other United Way agencies will receive less agency funding each of the next five years until getting to the point of only receiving program funding.

Stanfield said that’s a challenge for the staff, but fortunately, the new executive director, Ryon Wheeler, has experience with measurable outcomes in his previous job as chief executive officer at the Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley in Eugene, Oregon.

Wheeler worked alongside Stanfield for three weeks, allowing him to become familiar with how the Seymour club operates and meet community leaders.

Even though Stanfield no longer works at the club, he will still be around kids because he’s going to be an instructional assistant at Seymour-Redding Elementary School. His wife, Mindy, is a secretary at the school, and he said he plans to work there until she retires in three years.

That part-time job will have him working five hours a day.

“I’ll be semi-retired, but I’m out of the decision-making chair,” he said, smiling. “I’m just going to be the employee that they tell me what to do.”

In retirement, Stanfield said he also plans to babysit his two grandchildren and spend more time going on walks.

“I never picked up a golf club, so I don’t know whether that’s in the future,” he said. “I’ve got to keep busy. I’m not going to sit around and do nothing.”

Stanfield file

Name: Steve Stanfield

Age: 65

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Seymour

Education: Seymour High School (1970); Indiana Central College (bachelor’s degree in business, 1974)

Occupation: Recently retired after 43 years with the Boys Club/Boys & Girls Club of Seymour

Family: Wife, Mindy Stanfield; son, Kyle Stanfield; daughter, Kelly Stanfield; two grandchildren, Izzy and Callen Stanfield

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.