January 13, 2014 9:33:43 AM
The Columbus Boys and Girl's Club has a new director -- and new momentum.
Antwoin Richardson took over the reigns this month after former local club director Nadia Dale became the regional director for the Golden Triangle.
Richardson, who is originally from West Point, has traveled all over the South working with nonprofit organizations and said he is excited to be back home.
"I've been working in nonprofit youth development for the last eight years," Richardson said. "I'm extremely excited to be back in the Golden Triangle area and to get to work in the area of youth development."
Working with children has always been a passion for the new director, especially children who come from poverty.
"I've always loved working with kids, especially kids that come from what could be considered poverty or the lower level of the income spectrum," he said.
In order to reach those children, the club relies heavily on donations, Dale said. While the club is in a more stable place financially, fundraisers are still a necessity, she added.
"The Golden Triangle clubs, Columbus and Starkville, are in a much more financially-sound place," Dale said. "Thanks to the management and faithful stewardship of the previous executive director and the board, we've really been able to see the organization turn over a new leaf, which is a great situation to walk into as the new executive director. But we're still not out of the woods by my standards. Too many families are still unable to afford the current fee, which affects our enrollment, particularly at the Columbus club. And with the statewide decrease in some of the grant funds we rely on, it creates a real need to diversify our income sources. That said, we're planning to do more fundraising, so that we can keep the costs to the parents as low as possible."
The annual membership fee for the club is $180 per child.
To help parents offset that cost, the club is hosting their second annual sports talk event at EMCC Mayhew campus at the end of the month. Mississippi State University head baseball coach John Cohen will be the key speaker.
In addition to securing proper funding for the club, both Dale and Richardson said they want to focus more on academics at the clubs in the upcoming year.
"One thing I want for both clubs is to increase our impact on academic performance," Dale said. "We're with these children for a minimum of four hours a day, at best, 20 hours a week. That's a significant amount of time where we can do more to support the school districts in meeting their goals for student achievement. The way I see it, we're on the same team and our success is tied to one another's."
She continued by saying she hopes the clubs can prepare children for their future beyond the club.
"Something else that I want to see the Club become for our children is a place where they can plan for their futures -- whether that be college, careers in industry or entrepreneurial ventures," Dale said. "Too many teens in our community have no clue what they're doing after high school. Without a plan, valuable time can be lost. The Boys & Girls Club can be a place to help prevent that. As our motto states, 'Great futures start here.'"
Richardson echoed Dale's sentiment, saying the club is "crucial" to the children who attend.
"I think it's vital and crucial to the kids in the community that we serve," he said. "We primarily focus on academic success, living a healthy lifestyle, character and leadership in the community. A lot of kids we serve wouldn't get guidance or leadership in those areas if it weren't for the Boys and Girls Club."
For those who are interested in being mentors to the young students, Dale said the club could always use volunteers.
"There's no doubt we need the community's support as much now as ever," she said. "We always need to raise more money to ensure our children are experiencing opportunities to shape their futures. We also need tutors, volunteers and mentors to help fulfill our mission to cultivate caring, productive and responsible citizens."
For further questions about the club, contact Nadia Dale, Executive Director at 662-418-7285.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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