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Members, others thankful for Boys & Girls Clubs

POSTED: December 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Jadious Morgan, 7, eats a piece of ham with friends Tuesday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County during a Thanksgiving dinner for more than 200 youths.

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Hundreds of children poured into the Boys & Girls Clubs’ building near Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School to celebrate Thanksgiving with their other family with whom they spend their afternoons five days a week.

Members of the Keystone Club served a free ham dinner Tuesday to members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County annually serves more than 3,600 children, ages 6 to 18. The club provides afterschool programs and services to 360 members daily in an effort to enrich the lives and educations of young people from disadvantaged economic, social and family circumstances. Elementary school students often stay at the club after school until 6:30 p.m., and middle and high school students are invited to stay at the club until 8 p.m.

Derrick Caldwell, unit director of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Teen Center, said although many club members will have Thanksgiving dinner with their families, club leaders wanted to hold a dinner for the kids to express their gratitude for students’ participation in the program.

"I’m thankful to be an inspiration here for kids’ lives," Caldwell said. "We’re glad to be a tool kids can use to further their education."

Alize Watson, an 8-year-old student at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, said the blessing for the group before the kids dug in to their ham, macaroni and cheese and green beans.

"I said I was happy about Thanksgiving and love God," she said. "I’m thankful for my family and all my cousins and for coming here. They help us learn."

At the local Boys & Girls Clubs, 77 percent of the youth come from economically disadvantaged homes, and 71 percent come from single parent households. The membership is 65 percent male and 35 percent female, and is 41 percent black, 42 percent Latino and 17 percent white.

Jason Pleasant, a graduation coach for the Boys & Girls Clubs, said as a member of the club throughout his childhood, he’s grateful for the chance to give back to club kids. He said he also hopes local members will someday do the same.

"We look at it as an opportunity to affect kids’ lives in a way they’re not getting it at home," Pleasant said. "We are some of the kids’ parents to them. To some of them, we are a father figure or a brother figure."

"Our reward is a handshake and a thank you maybe 10 years down the road," Caldwell said.

Atlanta Falcons football players Stephen Nicholas and Jamaal Fudge attended the dinner Tuesday and told kids about the parts of life for which they are most thankful.

"Just be thankful for whatever you have, even it’s just the clothes on your back or the opportunity to come here and be with your friends," Fudge said.



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