By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club serves as a shining example of how a local community can come together to create positive change in the lives at risk children.
As we began our annual Black History Month coverage, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman wanted to highlight the work of the Boys and Girls Club, which exists as a result of black and white people working together toward the same goal of giving local children a strong foundation for success.
“In spite of the odds that we have to face as a race of people, there have always been people of all colors who want to make a difference in our lives for the better,” said Perriman. “The Boys and Girls Club is making that difference in our children’s lives. When the club started, the founders did not see color, they saw need.”
The Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club will celebrate its 10-year anniversary later this year. Three of the men who spearheaded its founding spoke to The Citizen about how the organization has enriched the lives of the children and families who have participated in it. The club currently has over 300 members and is housed behind Morgan County Middle School.
“The whole purpose is to take care of at risk kids and the statistics show we’ve been successful,” said Mike Conrads, Chairman of The Boys and Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia. “Our kids are graduating. Their grades are better and they have plans when they out of school for what is next, whether it is attending a technical school or college, or getting a job. They are much more prepared to that next level and they do it.”
Conrads pointed to the club’s emphasis on safe social activities, tutoring and mentoring programs as the trifecta for success among Boys and Girls Club members.
“It has a rippling effect, with benefits starting with the kids and trickling outward to the community,” said Conrads. “The kids that used to be problems in the classroom are now focused and getting on track because of the club’s environment. The classroom has improved. Teachers find it easier to teach and kids find it easier to learn.”
Revered Robert Terrell, who pastors Union Springs Baptist Church and is a former board member of the club, helped organize the club after working with the Boys and Girls Club in Athens.
“I knew back then we needed this in our own community,” said Terrell. “We saw that it work in other communities and we worked to bring it here for our children.”
Terrell believes the greatest accomplishment of the Boys and Girls Club is giving children a fun and productive place to learn and play after school.
“The club gives our kids a positive place to be after school,” said Terrell. The idle time is where kids get into mischief. But here, they have positive people and caring adults surrounding them. It amazes me what the staff and volunteers do for these kids.”
Terrell hopes Black History Month will be a particularly inspiring to the kids of the Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club.
“I think Black History can give these kids hope and promise,” said Terrell of inspirational African-Americans throughout history. “Any person that has hope always strives and I think our history can give them hope.”
“We want kids to understand their heritage and to learn about the role models that will inspire them,” added Conrads.
Harris Warbington, the first president of the Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club, recognized the collaboration necessary for the club to thrive.
“This take the entire community,” said Harris. Not only do we have an excellent partnership with the school system, but the black community and the white community came together and joined hands to make this happen.”
The Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club receives small grants each year from the State of Georgia but is predominantly dependent on private donations and the work of volunteers.
“We need the community’s help to keep this program going,” said Conrads.
To find out more information about how you can donate to the club or volunteer, call Director Aniesha Reed at (706) 342-1117.
“I wish we could go back and thank every single person who has made this club possible. There are just so many people, from parents to everyday community members, that make this club thrive,” said Harris.
“I want to see the day where the club is no longer needed, but we are not there yet. We need everyone’s help to keep this thing going,” said Conrads.