by Shelle Sandberg
Seven months ago, Terry Hughes joined the staff of the San Clemente Boys & Girls Club, as the new CEO. There are 4,000 clubs nationwide, and this is the fourth for Hughes. He acknowledged that the club is about mentoring academic success, character building, and learning about civic responsibility and healthy lifestyles. No longer does fun alone, get funded.
Fifty years ago, the city of San Clemente started a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. The building stands on city park land and they allow the club to remain on the property. There are a couple of grants available for funding as well, and Terry states the city is, “very supportive of us.”
It’s the B&GC that attracts the kids, but it’s the fun staff and volunteers that manage to keep them coming back. It’s definitely a team effort. Impressive directly from the reception desk, Nicole knows every child’s first and last name, what grade they’re in, and which parent is picking them up. She calls the appropriate staff member to release the child to the front to be picked up.
Hughes admits when he arrived there were plenty of elementary aged kids, a few middle schoolers, and hardly any high school kids. His goal is to stay current, and he is focused on bringing the fun back! So far, about 50 teens have returned.
Hailing from a small town in Connecticut, Terry found San Clemente to be “a pretty special place.” It reminds him of where he grew up. He said, “… I never could have imagined how awesome this community is. Seriously! There is nothing not to make you smile when you wake up. That’s totally unexpected.”
Before Hughes joined the SC B&GC, there was no rhyme or reason to the arrival or departure of the children at the club. Not only did it feel chaotic, but there was a sense of safety to be considered. It was unsettling having people walking onto the campus retrieving their kids. He implemented a drop off and pick up procedure to ensure the most efficient and secure way to accomplish this.
Terry loves being front and center to greet children in the morning, and again at the end of the day to say good-bye. He asks them about their day. He reads their faces, moods, and body language. He is extremely tuned in.
The biggest plan for the club is to bring in quality programs that speak to all school age children, not just elementary. He’d like to see some dance, drama, and music courses implemented for students. When things become more solid, perhaps a re-model that includes a dance studio…. and that creates a financial goal.
Hughes admits that the greatest challenge is meeting the budget every year. He says there are a lot of great organizations out there, and making sure that the club is the #1 place people give their philanthropic dollars is always a challenge. The B&GC annual budget is $1,000,000. Only 10% of that comes from the families. The rest is raised from grant programs and fundraisers. Through the generosity of the community the club is able to attain the rest of the monies necessary. Terry recognizes that it could not survive without donations. They have plenty of kids but really could use new donors who are excited, and understand the magic that happens there, and the impact the donors have on so many children’s lives!
Their annual Fundraising Gala is October 20th, 2018, at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point. Those unable to attend can donate and it will be welcomed and appreciated.
There tends to be certain segments of the community that look at the club as free, or almost free. Sometimes people lose sight of the value it has and the benefits to the children. The image and value is worth so much more than the actual dollar amount spent. The best perception would be, “This is the best $10 I’ve spent all week!”
The club provides meals, snacks, camaraderie, and even tutoring, but the B&GC is not just for economically challenged children, it’s for every child. With the diverse population of SC, that child who comes from nothing is befriending the child who comes from everything. Right there, they are the same. They’ll grow up being friends the rest of their lives because of a relationship made at the Boys & Girls Club.
Terry is proud of the growth and maturity levels he’s witnessed in the youth throughout his career with this organization. Watching them grow up, seeing the impact these clubs have had on them, and seeing these same individuals giving back, is awesome.
He measures his success by the number of kids who choose to come to the B&GC who don’t have to, the teens. If Hughes could have one wish he says, “I’d make sure they all graduate high school, with dreams to further educate themselves and prepare to be active members of their communities.”
As we walked around the club, something was incredibly wrong, or incredibly right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… and then it hit me. Every child was actively engaged … not one was on a cell phone!