Former Liberty County Commissioner Edna Walthour calls her effort to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Liberty County “a vision from God,” that began back in 2014 with discussions with various clergy members and local leaders.
“Now it’s coming to fruition,” Walthour said recently, as she and former Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas drummed up publicity for the effort, one they expect will eventually serve about 300 children a day in Liberty County.
It will do so under the auspices of the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club of Savannah, and that’s a good thing, Walthour said.
“We’re really pleased we’re under the guidance and oversight of the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club of America,” she said. “It’s one of the few clubs that consistently has 90 percent or better of the children who go there say they have a really, really good experience. They feel safe, and they get the home work assistance they need.”
While there are still some details to work out, the effort behind bringing Boys and Girls Club of America to Liberty County involves a number of local leaders from across the spectrum.
The official Liberty County Boys and Girls Club letterhead reads like a Who’s Who in Liberty County, listing nearly 40 people behind the effort, and Walthour and Thomas, working along with Frank Callen board member Sarah Hodges – whom Walthour said is indispensable -- say they hope to be ready to serve as many as 100 children a day when school lets out for summer, if not earlier.
That’s one reason for the publicity tour. Thomas said organizers want people to “know what’s coming, and “we want them to accept it as a viable community organization, and we want them to donate their time, their energy and their expertise.”
Though Thomas and Walthour expect the effort will draw some financial support from various areas, including local governments, they’re also looking for financial backing, and there’s already a website, bgcliberty.org, where donations can be made via PayPal.
The club expects to begin operations on a budget of $170,000 – that’s a number provided by the Boys and Girls Club of America -- and organizers have been looking at places at which to locate the club.
It won’t be free for children to attend, costing $15 per month – though Walthour and Thomas expect scholarships will be available, both civilian and military, “and no child will be left out.”
Parents will have to fill out an application and be able to provide transportation, and those who enroll will receive homework help, STEM projects, arts and crafts, supervised sports and a complete, balanced meal five days a week, 52 weeks a year, they say.
Even to Walthour and Thomas it’s unclear why there isn’t already a Boys and Girls Club in Liberty County, they say, given the organization’s 112-year history and its more than 4,000 local clubs across the U.S.
Brunswick, for example, has 10 sites, and other military towns like Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, all have a Boys and Girls Club.
There are also clubs in Toombs County and Statesboro.
For Thomas, a retired U.S. Army Green Beret who spent two terms as Hinesville’s mayor, it’s an idea long overdue.
“We have the largest military population per percentage of the community in the nation,” he said. “We owe it to these folks to take care of their children, and we owe it to our kids that they have a chance to grow up in a very caring community.”
For more information about the Liberty County Boys and Girls Club/Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bgcliberty.org.