Life on Greers Ferry LakeREAD ONLINE
Bryant Boys & Girls Club celebrates 10th anniversaryPublished August 3, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
For almost a decade, school-age children in Bryant have had a place to go, either after school or during the summer, that offered a safe place with a positive atmosphere and programs that build knowledge, skills and character.
The Boys and Girls Club of Bryant, the staff and the club’s board joined with community members to celebrate the club’s 10 years of service to the community with an event held in The Center at Bishop Park, the home of the club, on July 10.
The program was hosted by Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, who is a Bryant native and a former board president of the club. Broadway was also an ardent supporter of the club when he was a longtime member of the Arkansas General Assembly.
“When he started giving a history of the club at the reception, I remembered how much he and those who have also served in the Legislature over the last 10 years have helped the club,” said Suzanne Passmore, executive director of the club. “At the event, we received a grant from the Central Arkansas Planning and Development Commission for more than $119,000, the largest grant we have ever received at a single time.”
Passmore said the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant was started after the Bryant 20/20 meetings sponsored by the Bryant
Chamber of Commerce, when members of the community decided they needed something for area youth.
The report said an after-school program for the youth in the community was needed, Passmore said.
“A committee was formed, and they found there was enough support in the community to do something, and the Bryant Youth Association was formed in 2004, with the purpose of bringing a Boys and Girls Club to Bryant.”
Around this time, Passmore was contacted to be the club’s executive director.
“The members of the association asked me to meet with them,” she said. “I found out they were asking me to be the director.”
Passmore had a career in health care administration, but she said she felt directing the Boys and Girls Club was a job she was supposed to do, and she said she is glad she took it.
She was hired in June 2004, and the youth association opened an after-school program in late August of that year at the gym between Bryant’s elementary and middle schools. Passmore said the Bryant community, parents, the chamber of commerce and the Bryant School District all fought to get the Boys and Girls Club.
“We certainly had to jump through a lot of hoops,” she said. “The problem we had was the club was in Benton, but we all knew there was a need here in Bryant. The kids in Bryant may not have had a way to get to the club in Benton.”
Bryant’s Boys and Girls Club opened in February 2005 in partnership with the school district. The first day, the club served 250 children in kindergarten through the eighth grade. Now the club has more than 700 members in the club’s summer program, with around 500 kids coming every weekday to the club’s facility on the north end of The Center at Bishop Park.
During the rest of the year, about 525 young people take part in the club’s programs each day after school.
“We have found that almost all our members come to the club every day,” Passmore said. “We have received two national awards for the attendance rates we have during the school year. A lot of it is because of our reputation. We have newcomers tell us that they have talked with people in the community about us being a safe and positive place for their children every day.”
Along with games, films and a state-of-the-art playground, the club offers drum and guitar lessons and a variety of activities run by program director Chad Knight, including Power Hour, when young members can get help with their homework from volunteers and staff.
The main floor of The Center includes enough space for a large number of children from the club to have organized basketball games or just shoot some hoops. There are also art programs, computers for games and study, and special activities for teens.
However, the reputation of the club and its programs has filled the facility in just a few years.
“We moved into the new facility in 2011, but we are maxed out, and there is a waiting list,” Passmore said. “I never want to turn a kid away, but we are out of space here.”
On Thursday, the club in Bryant joined with other Boys and Girls Clubs across the country to launch the Great Futures Campaign to mobilize communities in support of kids and empower today’s youth to achieve great futures.
Nationwide, Boys and Girls Clubs strive to redefine the opportunity equation for kids by elevating the critical role that out-of-school time plays in a child’s development.
Through the Great Futures Campaign, the organization seeks to ensure that every child and teen has access to a safe place after school and during the summer where they can build the knowledge, skills and behaviors to put them on a path to success.
“We’re taking a leadership role with the Great Futures Campaign to elevate the impact of out-of-school time, a critical, yet often overlooked, part of their day,” Passmore said. “When school is out, no child should go unsafe or unguided. We are advocating on behalf of kids and convening public, private and nonprofit partners around a goal of ensuring all kids have access to a safe, engaging and productive place to go between school and home.”
Scott Dews, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant’s board of directors, said club officials want to continue its service to the community.
“We’ve seen the positive impact that occurs when young people have access to a place with caring adult mentors and enriching programs during out-of-school time,” Dews said. “We want today’s generation to be successful in school and in adulthood, to be healthy, active and to develop strong character skills they need to become future leaders for our country.”
The campaign that opened nationally on Thursday is planned to increase community awareness of the club and the mission it has followed for 10 years in Bryant, Passmore said.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.