by Robin Kemp

It’s July, it’s hot, and kids need something fun to do.

This fall, they’ll have a brand-new Boys and Girls Club in South Point, as part of the Flint River Community Center on Flint River Road. MARTA will add a bus stop near the center and Clayton County Public Schools will “provide reliable afterschool transportation options” so kids can go directly there. Clayton County will hire staff in August.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 (Commissioner Sonna Singleton Gregory was absent) at its July 21 meeting to “execute the facility use agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Inc. to set forth the parameters for funding and outline the plan of action for establishing programmatic activities at the Flint River Community Center.”

Having a Boys and Girls Club nearby will give kids structured recreational programming and a safe place where they can entertain themselves. The Boys and Girls Club offers a “Dialogue with Law Enforcement” packet that can help teenagers set up their own discussions with law enforcement officers, similar to one held recently by the Clayton County Youth Commission.

Boys and Girls Clubs exist to give young people a safe place to go, find mentors, and have fun as an alternative to hanging out on the streets and getting in trouble. And the Atlanta-based nonprofit has been doing it for over 150 years now in locations across the country, “(enabling) young people most in need to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, 4,300 Clubs serve nearly 4 million young people through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native lands throughout the country, and serve military families in BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide,” according to the group’s website.

Boys and Girls Clubs exist to fill the gap “on a daily basis during critical non-school hours, with programming to “promote academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. In a Harris Survey of alumni, 54 percent said the Club saved their lives.”

Programming includes sports and recreation, education, the arts, health and wellness, career development, character and leadership, teen and young adult activities for ages 13-18, initiatives for bereaved, disabled, and LGBTQ kids, Youth of the Year, and My.Future, a safe online digital community for kids ages 10-13 “to showcase their work and earn recognition in the form of stars, badges and master badges. It’s a space where kids can interact with each other – free from the prospect of cyberbullying – and share their accomplishments locally and nationally.”

Some famous Boys and Girls Club alumni include Matt Bonner, Misty Copeland, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Usher, Edward James Olmos, Ne-Yo, Evander Holyfield, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

“This has been a labor of love and one that I am proud to see through for the youth and families of the Clayton County community,” said District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin-Warner. “Over the past three years, our team has worked with various representatives throughout Clayton County and metro Atlanta, all of whom have been helpful in providing tools and insight into how to navigate the intricacies of moving forward with placing Boys and Girls Club in the new Flint River Community Center.”

Franklin-Warner singled out Newnan Councilwoman Cynthia Jenkins, who also is a representative for Habitat for Humanity. “Councilwoman Jenkins understood how to navigate the Boys and Girls Club approval process, facility plans, layouts, and programming structures,” she said in a press release. “Her knowledge and guidance was influential and of great importance. Without her assistance, this wouldn’t have been possible.”