Club Update: Why We Do This
Today is an early dismissal day in Allendale County schools, which means that kids will arrive by 1PM, instead of the normal 3 PM. The closing time is still the same 7PM, so we’ll have full-go programming for 6 hours, with about 50 kids.
Days like this often wear us out. The same goes for those days when the kids apparently forget what respectful behavior looks like. We are overwhelmed with the members need for constant encouragement, attention, and correction.
So, why do we do this? The three of us part-time staff do not do this for the money. The volunteers (including Joanna who is there every day, and others who come in once or twice per week) do not do this for selfish gain.
We show up each day with open arms and hearts because we want to see life change. And when we see and hear stories of how the children are growing, learning, and changing, we are re-energized.
Recently, we asked for some feedback from children and parents about how the program has affected their lives, (for some marketing material).
How Children Said They Have Grown
Here are some thoughts from some of the kids in our program (names withheld):
“My name is ____ and I like the [program] because it is a lot of fun and we get to do homework after school. We also get to exercise and play soccer. I am eight years old and I had the best summer of my life hanging at the [program] all summer.”
“My name is ____. Since coming to the club my attitude is better. I used to get in a lot of fights and bully kids around. But the grownups at the club have helped me to develop my character and I have learned how to get along better with others and I have learned to be a team player.”
“My name is ____ and I like being at the club. Mr. Love is nice to me. He is my teacher at the club and at my school. The thing I have learned the most is not to be selfish and not to look down on others who may not have as much as others. I can’t wait to get to the club every day. I wish it was open on Saturdays, too.”
“My name is ____, I am 9. I love coming to the [program]. I hate it when it is time to go home. We have so much fun. I have met new friends. They treat me nice, my new best friend is Elijah. I got a chance to go play with him at his house. This was the first time I have had a white friend. Mr Joey helps me with my homework and I have learned how to play soccer.”
This last one made me tear up, not for what this boy said about me, but because of his friendship with my son.
And a Word from Some Parents
“My name is ____ and I am the parent of ____. . . . The Allendale Unit is very organized and efficient. The Administrators of the club are extremely competent and they have an excellent rapport with their students and with the parents. I particularly enjoy the Character and Leadership Program that my son participates in at the club. As a parent, I’ve seen his self-esteem strengthen due to his participation and interaction with the club as a whole. The program initiatives are promoting growth and leadership skills for our children. [It] has become a valuable asset to our community by providing a nurturing and educational safe haven for our children to go.”
“My name is ____. I have two children that attend the [program]. . . . This is their first year attending the club. They LOVE it! They used to be very timid and would not converse with kids of their own age. After attending the club in just a few weeks, they have opened up. Their self-esteem has sky-rocketed. When I go to pick them up, they do not want to leave; that happens every day. I see this as a good thing. I have to commend the club as well as the staff of the club for all they do when it comes to my two children.”
How Did We Get Here?
As I read (and re-read) these words, I am moved, humbled, and encouraged. Obviously our success and impact is due to the power and purpose of the Gospel, allowing us to be used by God to bless others.
Additionally, I think our success in building and sustaining relationships is due to three things:
- Time. We spend up to 20 hours per week with the kids, and I had about 35 per week with them over the summer. We (my family, and the other staff and volunteers) live in town, so we run into and talk to families just as we are “doing life.” We have been a constant presence in their lives for months.
- Affirmation. I am not always great about regular, formal recognition. But I do give out constant “good jobs” and “atta’ boys” and high fives. These affirmations come from incidences from finishing homework, kicking a soccer ball, or choosing to not fight back.
- Trust. One time last spring, I agreed to give a boy a dollar if he made a trick basketball shot. He missed, and asked for a retry; I agreed, but he missed again. I told him to keep working on it and walked off. Apparently he made the shot after about 10 attempts, and wanted his dollar. I did not mean for him to have an open-ended opportunity. But I gave him the dollar anyway. I did not want him to walk away thinking I cheated or lied to him. We want to conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of these kids’ lives!