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Boys and Girls Club turns 60 with big celebration

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Fred Rankin knows the values he learned at the Boys Club are "life values."

"The things I learned there were things that stayed with me for life. It's important that children get that kind of direction," Rankin said.

The Boys Club has since merged with the Springfield Girls Club to become the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield. The club is celebrating its 60th anniversary Nov. 5, and Rankin is one of four men who will speak about their experiences with the club.

Richi West and Ron Neville, also local businessmen, will talk about how the club influenced them when they went there as boys. Bill Henderson, now retired, will speak about his 37-year career as executive director of the club. A 15-year-old girl, Jolesa Hayes, will speak about how the club is helping her right now.

Rankin cites Henderson as one of the major influences both on the club and on his development. After his stepfather died, the now 64-year-old owner of a State Farm Insurance business said, he was seeking a male role model.

"There are times in life when we're faced with tough decisions. It was at the Boys Club where I learned about how to face those decisions," Rankin said.

As with the other speakers, Rankin remained involved in the club long after he could call himself a boy. He served on its board of directors, and continues to contribute to and support the club.

"I've watched several young people develop and grow responsible and successful as adults. It's hard to pinpoint or put into words exactly what it was the club provided, but it's just a certain attitude or way of doing things," Rankin said.

Neville said a number of children he knew went to the Boys Club for its athletics program. Neville is now 51 and a private investor who was once involved in the Certified Public Accountant business.

"As a kid I probably didn't realize how important the club would be to me later on. It's important for kids to see a person like Bill (Henderson) and to have a good role model like that," Neville said.

Rankin also remembers Henderson as a role model who made sure the boys finished their homework.

Both Neville and Rankin grew up in midtown Springfield, as did West, who got to join the Boys Club a little bit early.

"When I was 5 years old, my brother took me to the club. It was really the thing to do and I wanted to join so bad, so they let me in, even though they usually didn't let you in until you were 6," West said.

West is now 37 and a former full-time employee of the club. He credits the club with helping him become self-sufficient.

Though he didn't realize it then, West said, "I had the best childhood for the simple fact that the Boys Club was there to help me to enjoy my childhood. I have Boys Club blood in me. I couldn't thank the club enough for the memories and everything I've learned in life," West said.

West is starting an alumni group for the Boys Club. Also involved in that group is Jeff Peryer who owns Property Management Consultants.

"I really feel like the club gave me everything. It helped us grow up, helped us be on our own. Most of my life, I've been surrounded by the club," Peryer said.

The Boys Club movement started in the 1860s, said Bill Stalnaker, current executive director of the Springfield club. The program in Springfield got started by Jenny Lincoln, and the club now has three locations. The Boys Club nationally merged with the Girls Club in about 1990, and the local clubs merged in 1991, Stalnaker said.

"With whatever program they choose, we hope the club offers a place where kids can be themselves, and they will be liked for who they are," Stalnaker said.

Dues for the club are $10 per year, but can be earned by children by working at the club. The club nationally targets at-risk kids and sponsors programs for youth for after school and summertime. The local Boys and Girls Club is supported through the Sertoma Club and is a United Way organization. The club also earns money for its programs through the rental of its buildings.

Stalnaker said the club encourages community service among its members and also tries to give kids a little bit of extra help in the areas where they need it.

"Most of the alumni have a true love for the experience they got while they were at the club. We want to help these kids develop into honest adults and have a good work ethic," Stalnaker said.

Henderson said he has encountered a number of former Boys Club boys who are doing well in the community now.

"I think the club had a great deal to do with their growing up," Henderson said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Athletics programs are one activity Springfield Boys and Girls Club offers.[[In-content Ad]]

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