By Stefanie Jackson – The Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia (BGCSEVA) celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and its 11 branches, including the Eastern Shore Boys & Girls Club, are participating in the festivities.
In honor of the anniversary, each locality that is home to a branch of BGCSEVA declared a Boys & Girls Club Day. In Northampton County, that day was April 25.
The celebration took place at Occohannock Elementary School in Exmore, where the club meets.
Director Kathy Custis said the Boys & Girls Club is a “home away from home for my kids,” referring to the nearly 250 youth ages 6 to 18 who attend the club that “has kept them out of trouble.”
But the Boys & Girls Club has done more than just keep kids out of trouble.
In 2017, the club provided nearly 38,000 meals and snacks at no cost to families.
During the school year, when the Boys & Girls Club meets on Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., dinner is served.
In the summer, when the club meets mid-June through mid-August, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., breakfast and lunch are served.
The Boys & Girls Club also provided nearly 35,000 hours of tutoring and homework help in 2017. Peer tutoring is a part of the activities, with older students helping younger students.
The tutoring program has helped kids that were making straight F’s improve their grades to B’s and C’s. Kids have even become straight-A students with the help of the tutoring program, Custis said.
With the dedication of the Frances Bibbins Latimer Library at Occohannock Elementary April 25, Boys & Girls Club members will have more resources to help them improve their reading skills and grades.
Latimer, who died in 2010, was a well-known Eastern Shore educator and historian who emphasized the African American experience. The Frances Bibbins Latimer Library holds books chosen by Boys & Girls Club kids and staff and bookshelves purchased with a small percentage of a $75,000 endowment began by Latimer’s husband, George Latimer.
Guests at the library dedication included Frances Bibbins Latimer’s brother, Paul Bibbins, Sen. Lynwood Lewis, Northampton Board of Supervisors Chairman Spencer Murray and Supervisor David Fauber, and BGCSEVA Chairman Bill Payne and board member Karen Hatch.
Payne also presented a check for $5,000 from the United Way of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Accomplishments of Eastern Shore Boys & Girls Club members include making honor roll, graduating high school, attending trade school or college, and graduating college.
The club helps students ages 14 to 18 find financial assistance for college and gives them opportunities to attend the annual National Keystone Conference, meet students from other Boys & Girls Clubs, tour colleges, and explore career options.
Desiree Kellam, of Painter, won runner-up in this year’s BGCSEVA Youth of the Year competition.
The goal of the club is to give kids the tools for success and “direct them on the right pathway,” Custis said.
The Eastern Shore Boys & Girls Club started in 2003. Custis joined as its director in 2006.
“I love kids,” said the former teaching assistant and 4-H extension office worker. “I see something good in every child.”
Her role as a Boys & Girls Club director is not a far cry from her role as a mother when she raised her three sons. Her children’s friends often came over to play basketball. Custis treated them like extended family, feeding them many meals and taking the crew with her to church twice a month.
She also considers the Boys & Girls Club kids like family and works to ensure that “every child succeeds and has the opportunity to succeed.”
For more information, call 757-350-9733 or email [email protected]
This story was updated to correct a misstatement about Custis’ past employment.