Regionalization revives Boys & Girls Club

Published 12:11 am Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County has taken its struggling Beaufort County counterpart under its wing, infusing it with the support and fundraising needed to keep the Washington and Belhaven clubs operating.
In January, the Beaufort County organization reached out to its neighbors — a call that was quickly, and gladly, answered, according to Steve Stephenson, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County. Within three days, Stephenson and CEO Misty Marston had found a ready source of support in Goodwill Industries and a $100,000 donation that has prevented the local clubs from closing their doors. Since, with the help of area director Malveata Collins and the Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort County advisory board, they’ve steered the organization toward financial health and are in the process of expanding the programming offered to area children that are most in need.
“We’ve found that Boys & Girls Clubs only thrive if they have the support of local businesses,” Stephenson said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without the support of Goodwill.”
It’s not the first time the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County has thrown a lifeline to neighboring clubs. The organization oversees eight clubs in three counties and serves over 1,000 children a day. According to Marston, the Beaufort County clubs are joining a nationwide trend of club regionalization, a trend with which she’s very familiar.
Before hiring on with Pitt County’s club, Marston worked with a consulting firm specializing in revitalization of ailing organizations across the country, 90 percent of which were Boys & Girls Clubs. As in similar cases, she has created goals for the Beaufort County organization that include financial solvency and development of funding resources; for the children the clubs serve, academic success, healthy lifestyles and building character and citizenship are the priorities.
In addition to Goodwill, PotashCorp-Aurora came forward with a $20,000 donation and an offer to match dollar for dollar funds raised up to $50,000. First South Bank donated $10,000 and several local residents have come through with substantial donations.
With an operating budget of $300,000 a year, there’s still work to do, Stephenson said.
“We started behind the eight ball,” Marston added. “We’re not there yet.”
The programs offered at Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County will be shared in Beaufort County: kids college, web-based academics and “Stop, Drop and Read,” a summer program in which the thousand-plus children in their clubs will stop whatever it is they’re doing at 1 p.m. every day to read for half an hour. At the Pitt County clubs, the academic success they’ve found is apparent in that 78 percent of their kids are on grade level in math and 72 percent read at grade level — numbers that outperform statewide statistics, according to Stephenson.
“We don’t want people to view us as cheap daycare … We see ourselves as a game changer in North Carolina,” Marston said. “Our role is changing the lives of a generation of kids.”
For Marston and Stephenson, their role is focused on drumming up support from the community; finding those who want to invest in the academic and social health of Beaufort County children.
“It’s personally rewarding for me because this is home,” Stephenson, who is a native of Washington, said. “I think you’ll be very proud of what you see over the next few years.”