When I worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs, there was a little girl named LaVona who attended the Junior Club which was for our 5 and 6 year olds. Junior Club met right by my office. LaVona would stop by on her way to Club to tell me about her day at school, and no matter what was going on that day, I would stop what I was doing to listen and talk to her for 5 minutes or so. I never thought anything of it until one day when I was picking up a donation from the Time Warner office in downtown Akron.
I went to the front desk to sign in and asked for the person who was giving me the item. The kind lady at the front desk looked at me, my Boys & Girls Club shirt and my name on the sign in sheet and asked quickly, "Are you Mr. Nate?"
I replied, "Yes, I am but how do you know me as only Club kids call me Mr. Nate?"
She said, "I am LaVona’s mom and you are her hero. I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to her."
LaVona's mom explained that she was a single parent and had multiple kids going to the Boys & Girls Club. LaVona told her Mom everyday that "Mr. Nate" asked her about her day at school. LaVona did not have a male adult figure to look up to, and with her mom working a couple of jobs to stay on top of things, there wasn't much time for her mom to have those little talks that kids look forward to and enjoy. I realized that even though I didn't work in the Clubs directly, I had had an impact on a child's life and from that point on I took time to talk to the Club kids no matter what I had going on.
Even though I have moved on in my professional life, I still give back to the Boys & Girls Clubs. I always tell volunteers or Board Members that someday you will get your “story” and when you get it you will always be involved in this organization because it will hit you right where it matters. So take the time to get your “story” and make a difference in the life of a kid.
Nate Searles – BGC Connect Council Member
If I could share one piece of advice with a Boys & Girls Clubs member, I would tell them to take advantage of all the good opportunities that the Boys & Girls Clubs offers. Don't put yourself in the position where you will look back on your life and wish you took advantage of the programs and opportunities to learn and experience new things.
I sometimes wonder what I would have done after school if Club had not been available to me. I'd like to think that I was just a good kid and would have been good no matter what, but when I look back at how some of my childhood friends turned out who didn't have the benefit of the Boys Clubs, I realize how important it was to supplement my mother's guidance with a positive structured environment when she wasn't around. My mother, who was a single parent raising three children in a public housing environment, wanted me and my brother to have a place to go to keep us occupied and to constructively burn off what seemed to be a significant amount of energy.
The Boys Club provided a safe place for me and my brother to go and participate in a variety of activities including organized track and field, baseball, and basketball. I also learned how to shoot pool, play checkers and got exposed to a variety of other activities that I wouldn't have had an opportunity to experience because of our family's financial situation at the time.
I was recently accepted as a Boys & Girls Clubs Board member this year and I'm really looking forward to the task at hand. I continue to support the Boys & Girls Clubs because I think the organization does good work and makes a significant difference in the lives of so many young people. Supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs will help many young people help themselves and there is no better feeling than to make a difference in a young person's life.
Tony C. Banks - 1963-1969 McKeesport Boys Club, McKeesport, PA