By Daniel Brunty The Winston County Journal
The Winston County Boys & Girls Club has seen a lot of changes as well as had its ups and downs during this past year. What has always remained a constant, however, is the caring and compassion of the staff of the organization. As the club looks to another year of helping youth become productive, caring, responsible citizens, we talked to some of the people that make this possible. Mike Cournoyer, President of Winston County Boys & Girls Club, spoke on the organization. “I started my work with the B&G Club about 2 ½ years ago,” said Mike Cournoyer, President. “I was Committee Chairman for Fund raising. I was also named to the Corporate Board serving The Neshoba and Winston County Boys & Girls Club. Last year I served as the Corporate Board President. This year I was elected to serve as the President of the Winston County B&G Club.” Cournoyer spoke of the challenges and changes the organization has been a part of recently. “The Winston County Club has progressed, but we have had some setbacks,” said Cournoyer. “Last year we lost our Unit Director, Larry Dickens, who resigned to spend more time with his ailing mother. With the help of Tarsha Love who is the Chief Professional Officer of Neshoba Winston Boys & Girls Club, we were able to continue to serve the our kids until we could find a new unit director. We hired a long time B&G Club volunteer, Tamika Moore, to become our local Unit Director. We also lost our building last year on Ivy Avenue, but the Louisville Municipal School System allowed us to rent space on their middle school campus.” Even with all the change, the club has been able to touch the lives of many of the youth in Winston County. “I believe that your local club is heading in the right direction with our young people,” said Cournoyer. “Since 2008, we have served 869 children. Since moving into our new location we have served 167 children. Our Boys & Girls Club is currently serving 93 kids per day. We have partnered with Mississippi State University to help administer the CAPPS program for at risk kids that need help with schoolwork. We have had a steady increase in our club participation every year. We are now teaching B&G Club programs at Nanih Waiya and Noxapater in conjunction with the CAPPS program. This will be our third year to offer a structured, well-supervised summer camp program for any child that wishes to attend. We will be offering a summer program that will provide the children breakfast and lunch and place the children in a fun and learning environment.” Cournoyer is also looking at future plans for the organization as well. “In the future we hope to have sister clubs in Nanih Waiya and Noxapater Communities. Our goal is to serve 200 kids per day within the next 3 years. We need your help as a community in several ways. Of course financial help is always needed, but also we need volunteers to help tutoring the children. Our community will become what our children become.” Terron Neal, a group leader as well as a mentor at the Winston County B & G Club, has been with the club since 2008. He has served at several positions during his time and tells of the happenings of the club over the past year. “Within the last year we have maintained the accurate numbers for after-school programs and summer camps to be conducted,” said Neal. “the club has enlightened the members in many areas as it relates to technology, science, and math. One main goal is to maintain the accurate number of members to keep the club open. That goal has been met. We also want to continue to provide a safe, fun environment for our kids while doing so.” Neal hopes that the organization will be able to reach its goals in respect to making a difference in the lives of the children who attend. “The overall goals of the club are to value all young people, especially those who need us the most and to help them reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens,” said Neal. Neal, who is well-respected by the children as well as his peers, hopes that the club will see record numbers in attendance this year. “We encourage more people to come and volunteer,” said Neal. “the club is always accepting donations. It is never too late to sign up your children. We accept children between the ages 5-18. Most importantly, we want the public to know that your children are in a positive and safe environment.” The club not only has grown-ups as volunteers, but older youth have taken the time to out of their schedules to be volunteers as well. One such youth is Ashley Shields, the senior Valedictorian at Louisville High School. “The kids are a joy to work with, and so is the staff,” said Shields. “The kids are quite active, so the club is never boring. Most importantly, the kids acknowledge we are teaching them.” Not only do they teach the kids, but sometimes they find themselves on the other end of that spectrum. “Tutoring the young kids has helped me regain some of those basic skills for English, which in turn helps me to create better sentences,” said Shields. The B & G Club has opened many doors for the local youth over the recent years, not with just academics or making them productive citizens. It is a place that a child can come and talk to someone about problems at home, or anything they have on their mind. The club addresses not only the academic aspect, but they are there to nurture the mental and emotional aspects of the children who attend. The B & G Club is in need of not only just financial support, they also need the support of parents and more volunteers to sacrifice time to show the children they care. The B & G Club is for the community, but the community must also understand for it to perform at its highest level; it needs the community to support it. Unit director Tamika Moore wanted to express her gratitude to all that have assisted and donated to the organization. She hopes that in the future that more people will lend their services and donations to benefit the well-being of the youth of Winston County. If you would like to volunteer your time or would like to give a financial donation to the organization, you may contact the Boys & Girls Club at 662-803-3073.