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Boys, Girls Club opening in early 2014

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By Cindy Simpson

The first Boys & Girls Clubs of Roane County location will be open for business at the first of the year.

A startup date of Jan. 13, 2014, was announced to the Harriman Rotary Club last week.

An application drive kicks off Nov. 21 at Harriman Middle School, site of the initial club.

“We need your organization’s support as advocates for us in the community, to get the word out, to let everybody know this is good for the community,” said Dean Deathridge, the new chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Club of the Clinch Valley.

“We need your financial support to make sure we can sustain the Boys & Girls Club, because the fees are nominal if we have them at all, but it costs us about $800 a year to take a child, give them the meals, transport them on trips, have all the programs,” he added. “We have to have the quality programs. If a person wanted to sponsor a child, they could do it” for about $800.

Deathridge said they also need people to volunteer to be mentors or to help with other activities to help the club thrive.

“We just need you to be helping us to be the biggest part of this community we can be,” he said, “because it is important.”

Deathridge has been working with Boys & Girls Club since he was a student at Middle Tennessee State University.

He shared the story of a boy named Zack he met through his work at the agency.

The teen, who aspired to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, had gotten into some trouble and had to do 20 hours of community service at the Boys & Girls Club.

“He ended up doing 200-plus hours at our club,” Deathridge said. “He had such a positive impact on the kids there, leading them and teaching them about goals that our board wanted to make him a junior staff.”

The focus of Boys & Girls Club is to give children a safe location to keep them out of trouble and give them skills for life.

Deathridge said from 3 to 7 p.m. is when juvenile crime spikes, and it is on the rise.

“That is why we’re open from 3 to 7,” he said. “We do that deliberately, so we can be there for them so they can come to a safe place, they can interact with very professional staff and they can mix with their members in a safe environment where they can have opportunities to learn and grow and not be bullied, because the alternative is they are either going to be home unattended, because there are a lot of single-parent households or two-parent households where people are working two jobs to make ends meet, or they will be running the streets.

“That is one of the impacts Boys & Girls Club makes in a community right from the get go. The crime level generally when we come into a new community comes down.”

Helping young people succeed academically is a club focus.

“We have a great reputation for success. If a young man or woman comes in our doors, participates in our programs, they are more than twice as likely to graduate high school than if they hadn’t,” Deathridge said.

Teaching children healthy lifestyle choices, including nutrition, drug and alcohol education and sexual abstinence is also part of the curriculum.

“We make sure they get a healthy snack when they get to the club. We make sure they get a hot meal before they go home,” Deathridge said.
Smart Moves is designed to get young people moving, and the club can focus on service learning opportunities so children are empowered.
“We want to make sure their efforts and all their energy are focused the right direction,” Deathridge said.

Deathridge is reviewing applications for a Roane County unit director, and the agency will soon be hiring staff.

“I am so excited in the difference we are going to make in the next generation,” said Charlene Hipsher, a steering committee member, who is also a staff member of District Attorney Russell Johnson.

The Harriman Middle club is just the beginning of what the steering committee envisions as multiple locations or a central location in the county.

“We need clubs all over Roane County,” Hipsher said.