Fort Mill Times

Up Close and Down Home - April 22, 2009

The birthday kids celebrate during the club's monthly party. Shown are (sitting, from left): Skii Crank, Tatiyana Kennedy-Toler, Alaina McCants, Jada McNeil; (back, from left) Javon Agurs and Ashanti Roberts.
The birthday kids celebrate during the club's monthly party. Shown are (sitting, from left): Skii Crank, Tatiyana Kennedy-Toler, Alaina McCants, Jada McNeil; (back, from left) Javon Agurs and Ashanti Roberts.

The Fort Mill Boys and Girls Club is the fun place to be. Just ask any of the almost 40 members who spend their after-school afternoons at the club.

"We provide a safe and active place for children and teens to spend their afternoons before parents get off work," says Cristina d'Erizans, unit director of the Fort Mill Boys and Girls Club of York County, located in the Banks Street Resource Center.

School buses from the town's elementary and middle schools drop off club members. After greeting Mrs. P. J. (Hall), the club Mom, with hugs, the members register their presence with bar-coded membership badges. Then most fly off to the gym to run off some energy. Pretty soon, members are called back to the main clubhouse to work on homework, something parents really appreciate.

Some members get one-on-one help with reading or math by working with Boys and Girls Club volunteers.

Another plus for the club is the use of a computer lab with educational software. Renzulli "reads" the likes of the user, then tailors the learning programs to those likes, such as dinosaurs or roller coasters.

After the programs and homework are completed, it's time for more fun in the gym or outside, weather permitting.

"We play games, kickball, basketball, just about anything with a ball," says T. J. White, gym and games director. "Working with all the kids is just plain fun. These kids take my heart. I remember one young man, who, after his first day, wasn't sure of my name, but still gave me a hug."

On Fridays, the schedule is relaxed and the afternoon is filled with nonstop fun. Once a month, all birthday kids are treated to a party provided by the Women's Club of Fort Mill. After singing "Happy Birthday, Cha, Cha, Cha," all kids are treated to cake, ice cream and all the trimmings. When the goodies are all gone, the girls begin line dancing to rocking music and the boys head to the gym for some hoops.

"Our club is modeled with the national organization," says d'Erizans. Our programs are centered on core groups of character and leadership; health and life skills; the arts; sports, fitness and recreation; and, education and career development."

D'Erizans, also loves working with the children.

"I got involved with a Boys and Girls Club during my first year of college. When I transferred to Winthrop, I asked around for the local clubs and that was seven years ago. It's a great atmosphere with great programs."

Partnerships with community groups have helped the c0lub's success. The Fort Mill schools have provided transportation to the clubhouse. The Fort Mill Golf Club has offered golf lessons for members. The nearby Fort Mill Community Playhouse has encouraged members to try out for parts for the theatre's four productions, especially the youth play in the summer. The Women's Club has been providing the birthday parties since the first of the year through a grant from the National Federation of Women's Clubs.

The first Boys Club was organized in 1860 in Hartford, Conn,, to provide for boys an alternative to loitering in the streets. In 1990, the name was changed to Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Today, there are 4,300 clubs, 4.8 million members and some famous alumni include Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Brad Pitt and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

"We could always use more members," says d'Erizans, "and we are gearing up for our full-day summer program in June. As some of the advertisements say, the Boys and Girls Club is a 'positive place to be.'"

Lizann Lutz writes about the people, places and events around Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Indian Land and Van Wyck. Please share your ideas with her by calling the Fort Mill Times at 547-2353 or by e-mailing Lizann at lizannlutz@comporium.net.

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