For about 650 children and youth in Southern Pines and Aberdeen, the Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills is their home-away-from-home.
It’s the place students can go after school every day and be sure of a filling dinner and help with homework. Classes teach everything from basic nutrition and money management to putting on a necktie.
Since the late 1990s, when the club got started with seed money from the national organization and $500,000 of the proceeds from the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the club has done a lot with limited resources.
Without placing additional burden on families, the Boys and Girls Club hopes to change that with a $2 million endowment campaign.
Supporting each student for a school year at the Boys and Girls Club costs about $1,000. Families pay a fraction of that — and even that nominal fee can be a burden for some.
“We get pretty regular questions about sponsorship, or if there’s something we can do because they can’t afford it, especially when there are multiple kids in a family,” said Club CEO Fallon Brewington.
“The majority of the kids that we serve qualify for free or reduced lunch, so that’s an indicator that they need help.”
Students qualify for reduced-cost or free school lunches based on their family’s income relative to federal measures of poverty. Nearly 75 percent of Boys and Girls Club members qualify.
Over the last few years, the club has had some success with its “Sponsor-A-Child” program. About 175 children are expected to be fully sponsored for the coming year.
But for club supporters Emmet and Mary Logan of Pinehurst, that’s not enough. Mary Logan has served on the club’s board of directors since 2014 and is now the board chair.
“This is too important, the money should be there every year,” said Emmet Logan. “I consider this club one of the most important things in town.”
The Logans are the first of what the club hopes will eventually be a group of 400 donors to its endowment campaign.
The club has grown considerably since its early days. It now provides programming in three locations: its Southern Pines base on Morganton Road as well as satellite programs at Aberdeen Elementary School and Trinity A.M.E Zion Church.
A successful capital campaign led to the addition of the Baxter Teen Center at the Southern Pines site in 2015. Thanks to the teen center, the club has made progress in capturing an elusive demographic: high school students. The club’s membership now includes about 100 teens. This past spring, the Boys and Girls Club celebrated eight members’ high school graduations.
“Students really know what’s ahead because the teen center director here. Germann Bostic works really hard at getting them to understand there are places they can go and that they don’t have to stop after high school,” said Mary Logan.
Based on the demographics in southern Moore County, Logan estimates that the club is reaching just under half of the students that could benefit from its programs. As board chair, she will help the club maintain a delicate balance between supporting its existing membership and expanding to fulfill unmet needs in the coming years.
“I would say our biggest challenge right now is financing growth: collecting enough money to allow us to expand and serve more kids,” she said.
All three of the club’s sites are consistently full. The newest, at Trinity A.M.E. Zion, only allowed the club to clear its waiting list. Aberdeen Elementary School, where the club bases its Aberdeen program, is slated to close next year.
Expanding the club’s footprint, though, requires growing its reputation — both among potential supporters and prospective members.
“Not everyone knows the Boys and Girls Club is here, so we have a plan to do more fundraisers, more outreach programs and we’re really trying to make ourselves known,” said Logan.
“In Aberdeen we’re trying to make sure the community knows we’re there. Right now, kids go there who go to the elementary school and that’s about it,” said Logan. “We really need to be sure that community knows that we’re there helping to keep their community and their children safe.”
Citing many of the markers associated with students who drop out of high school — poverty, single-parent homes, and lagging behind in literacy skills beyond third grade — Emmet Logan said that the work of the Boys and Girls Club goes far beyond the students themselves to enhance the entire area.
“There are so many wonderful things you can do throughout the country and throughout the world, charities you can help. But these people are local. These are our neighbors. If we help these people, it’s helping our community,” he said.
“We really don’t want to live in a community of haves and have-nots.”
For information about the Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills or upcoming endowment campaign, visit sandhillsbgc.org or contact Caitlin Terry, director of development, at (910) 692-0777.