This story was originally published in The Star-Herald.
By Joseph Brown
Providing a safe and stable place for today’s youth has been the sole mission of the Oprah Winfrey Boys and Girls Club of Kosciusko/Attala County.
The club chief executive officer Donald Evans has worked to instill that message since arriving at the 15-year-old club in 2013.
“One of the main messages that I have been big on since I got here was that this boys and girls club is a community boys and girls club,” Evans said. “The club was opened due to a need after seeing many young people roaming the streets with nothing to do. When young people are roaming the streets, they always seem to get into trouble.”
The OWBGC focuses on helping young people ages 5-18, trying to change their behavior from negative to positive.
“When I came here I don’t think the community realized the impact that the boys and girls club can have on the community,” Evans added.
Since 2001, the organization has had a 100 percent graduation rate, no teenage pregnancies and no gang affiliations among its members that have stayed with the club.
“Most of the kids that stayed with the boys and girls club, stay because of the mentors,” Evans said. “Our mentors show the children an exemplary life and what they can accomplish if they stay on the right track.”
Over the past eight years the organization has been honored to place five individuals in the top five of the Boys and Girls Club of America’s premier recognition program “Youth of the Year.” Two individuals from the OWBGC went on to represent Mississippi in the regional competition.
“This is an amazing accomplishment for us, considering we are really still in our infancy,” Evans stated.
The Attala County boys and girls club chapter has five clubs, serving approximately 150 kids during the school year and aims to serve over 200 children over the summer months in the Kosciusko/Attala club. Other club locations include Sallis, Ethel, Carthage and Walnut Grove.
“The Oprah Winfrey Boys and Girls Club operates on a $600K budget and it can become challenging,” Evans said. “We can always use more support from our community with volunteers and extra finances. At 32K square feet there are not many boys and girls clubs this big, so running it can be challenging.”
“It is a labor of love, but when you see the children enjoy the activities it makes it all worth it,” Evans added. “We just have to be sure that the children have what they need in order to keep the club running and successful.”