With the passion of those leading the effort, support from the community and the need for a place for youth to flourish and learn, it might not even take that long. A dozen members of the community from all sectors — faith, business, education, government — have formed a steering committee to get the idea off the ground.
Sheila Maxwell, who is the vice president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Red Oak Elementary in Stockbridge, said the concept began for her about five months ago. Ronnie Jenkins, the Boys & Girls Club of America service director spoke at Crosswalk Ministries USA, a faith-based organization focused on youth.
A light bulb went off in the heads of executive director Gina Moore and Maxwell.
Don Dunlap, who is a teacher at Henry County’s alternative school — Patrick Henry Academy — jumped in later.
It was agreed upon that a Boys & Girls Club, with its name recognition and proven success, would be the goal, rather than trying to start up a countywide organization from scratch. Each community branch of Boys & Girls Club caters to the needs of the youth in the community.
“It’s not cookie cutter,” Maxwell said. Dunlap said youth in Henry County are interested in the music industry, whether it’s performance or production.
“This is the backyard of Atlanta, which offers some incredible opportunities,” he said of Henry County. “We’d be giving them the skill set for real post-secondary opportunities.”
While the club would give youth a large-scale goal of learning a specific trade, other skills would be taught alongside it, such as character education, etiquette, critical thinking and job acquisition. On top of that, it would be an encouragement for the youth to stay in school.
Currently, the steering committee is diligently laying the groundwork — creating bylaws, looking for members for the board of directors, forming policies and procedures — while also looking for a physical location for the club. Dunlap and Maxwell said Stockbridge city council is considering letting them use the fire precinct on North Henry Boulevard.
After that comes support from the community, which Dunlap said includes time, talent and treasure. Spreading the word, volunteering their skills and supporting financially are key contributions the effort needs.
The group wants to start the club in Stockbridge.