Each year the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier serves more than 6,000 young men and women, with fun, education and enrichment opportunities that leaders say fill gaps in education and ultimately lead to healthier more well-rounded kids.
This year, the Hall County-based after-school program added a new group to its flock, this time in Forsyth County at Cumming Elementary School, where officials say the program has been welcomed warmly.
"We have gotten some great reports from the Cumming club," said Regina Gore, development and communications director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier. “We were welcomed with open arms into Cumming Elementary School and we actually opened at capacity with a waiting list in August."
Gore said that the new Forsyth County chapter currently serves more than 100 students at Cumming Elementary, offering all the after-school programs and opportunities that the organization is known for.
During the academic year, students in a Boys and Girls Club stay after school each day, participating in different enrichment opportunities, like art and music classes, working on homework and getting plenty of time for playing and being a kid.
"We offer a fun and safe place for kids and we help close any kind of academic gap that the kids might have,” she said. “We emphasize a healthy lifestyle by providing a healthy snack for the kids, making sure that they are outdoors or doing physical activity and also offer good character and citizenship lessons."
She said that the organization also has about 80 part-time professional tutors who offer tutoring three hours a week, in addition to homework help and help with all the other enrichment programs that they have.
During the summer, the organization offers weekly summer camp programs throughout June and July, with outings, activities, sports, crafts and academic enrichment to combat summer learning loss.
“We're very much aware of the fact that the kids we serve are the most in danger of having an academic gap, especially in the summer,” she said.
According to Denise Leeson, vice president of community investment for the United Way of Forsyth County, the Forsyth County community has had a need for such a club for a long time.
Leeson said that United Way, along with other groups in the community, have long advocated for the club and helped get the chapter started at Cumming Elementary School over the last school year.
"We were very fortunate to work with Ms. Lee Anne Rice at Cumming Elementary this year and then Jordan Livermore, who is going to be their new principal next year,” she said. “And we hope to expand as the program gets stable and on its feet."
Their hope, she said, is for Forsyth County to one day have its own Boys and Girls Club facility, like the one in Hall County.
"More children will be able to access it,” she said. “When they are housed in individual schools, it usually tends to just be for that school."
Right now, the Cumming club is limited to students at Cumming Elementary, but according to Gore their summer programs are open to kids and teens, ages 6 to 18, from anywhere in the Forsyth County.
She said that the current summer camp programs are still open and accepting new campers, more information on the program and how to register can be found by visiting www.boysgirlsclubs.com.