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Dual groups, single leagues: Gainesville parks and rec, Boys & Girls Clubs join forces

POSTED: May 11, 2008 5:01 a.m.
ASHLEY FIELDING /The Times

From left: Melvin Cooper, director of Gainesville's Parks and Recreation Department; Joe Biddy, chairman of the Parks and Recreation's board of directors; Jerome Yarbrough, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County's board of directors; and Joe Ethier, chief professional officers of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, sign an agreement Wednesday to combine services.

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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County and Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation department have joined hands — a move both agencies say will enhance the services they provide to area youth.

Heads of the two agencies met Wednesday on the field of City Park Stadium and signed an agreement to combine some of their youth services.

As part of the deal, the Boys & Girls Clubs will take on basketball and soccer leagues while the Parks and Recreation department will offer football and baseball leagues.

From now on, the city department will maintain the Boys & Girls Clubs baseball fields in exchange for use of the Boys & Girls Clubs baseball and football fields.

Joe Biddy, chairman of the Parks and Recreation’s board of directors, said the partnership is the best way for the two agencies to use their equipment and serve the community.

"This chain has no weak links, because we’re no better than the sum total of our experience," Biddy said.

"You put Parks and Recreation (with) the Boys & Girls Club and you’ve got one heck of a lot of experience," he said.

Jerome Yarbrough, Gainesville’s fire marshal and the president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County’s board of directors, said he benefited from both agencies as a child and as an adult. Yarbrough said the partnership is a "win-win situation."

"When we come together, we’ve got one goal in mind and that’s to serve the youth of this community," Yarbrough said.

Both agencies will maintain their identities, but Yarbrough said the partnership is more practical than having a city baseball league and a Boys & Girls Clubs league.

"In the end, later on in school or youth sports, all these kids will come together and play together on the same teams anyway," Yarbrough said.

The city’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs has been in the planning stages for more than a year, said Joe Ethier, chief professional officer for the Clubs.

"I hope that it will be something that we can use as a role model for other partnerships, and encourage other providers to enter into partnerships," Biddy said.

Ethier said the club has not had conversations to devise a partnership with the Hall county parks and recreation department, but said he was open to the idea.



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