The Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia will sponsor a club for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, beginning with a part-time program this fall and expanding to a “full-fledged Boys & Girls Club” in January, according to the group’s program director Karen Robertson.

“We are overly excited about the opportunity to expand the Boys & Girls Club into Putnam County,” Robertson said. “We just want to be a partner that collaborates with the great things that are already happening to improve outcomes for children and families in Putnam County.”

Robertson, CEO Steven Rice, and Region Development Committee Chairman Harris Warbington made their announcement at the Putnam County Board of Education meeting Monday, where Robertson said they were “ready to go to work to get the club going.”

The North Central Georgia organization, which sponsors the clubs in Morgan, Greene and Walton counties, learned Friday the Georgia Department of Education was awarding a Century Community Learning Center grant, providing approximately $300,000 a year for five years for Putnam’s club. The regional group will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant, which will be paid as expenditures are made.

The club will be housed in two schools – the kindergarten through fifth-grade program will be at Putnam County Elementary School, with sixth- through eighth-graders served at Putnam County Middle School.

PCES Principal Raymond Braziel and PCMS Principal Susan Usry also spoke at the BOE meeting. 

There was some good-natured ribbing as Braziel said it would be “a challenge” to find space for 110 children to participate at his school. 

“It’s all exciting, and it’s worth it,” he added.

Usry quickly said she’d “be more than happy” to take some of his “slots” and increase the 65 allotted for the middle school. 

“Never in my life did I think I’d refer to the learning cottages in a positive way, but I’m so glad to have them now,” she said of the modular units on the PCMS campus. 

Once alternative classrooms, they now are used for storage, and will be refurbished for the club.

Timeline

Robertson said registration will take place at the open houses held at PCMS, PCES and Putnam County Primary School before school starts. 

The program will have a “soft opening,” Robertson said, starting in September at both sites as a 21st Century Community Learning Center program for 2 ½ hours after school, Monday-Thursday. 

Initially, participants will be chosen based on their need for academic support.

Plans are to expand in January “to a full-fledged” club, which will remain open until 7 p.m. and will include children without regard to academic need.

“Both 21st Century and Boys & Girls Club embody academic enrichment and youth development activities in a safe place for kids after school during those critical hours of 3 and 7 p.m. when most parents are working and not available for their children,” Robertson said.

Amenities

Braziel and Usry said the best thing they heard was that part of the grant includes transportation for participants. 

Robertson confirmed that, saying primary school students will be taken by bus to the elementary school and then all students can ride the buses home at the end of the day.

Transportation also will be provided for extra activities sponsored by the club. 

In addition to the 30-week after-school program, Robertson said organizers plan to have eight “Super Saturdays, which are high-intensity academic enrichment,” and a four-week, full-time summer program.

Braziel said he was most excited about parent workshops. 

Robertson said, “because our program can only be stronger if the parents are engaged and the family, over all, is strengthened,” the Putnam County Boys & Girls Club will host workshops for parents on financial literacy; better ways to help children with homework; nutrition and meal planning; and fitness, exercise and stress-reduction.

“My school leaders and I are already looking at ways to partner with them to host a parents’ night,” Braziel said.

Adult support

Rice said the local club cannot operate without a steering committee.

“The Boys & Girls Club absolutely is something the community has to rally around and the community has to own it,” he said. “

The regional group “will continue to secure funding, but the community must be involved,” he said, and the corporate organization is looking to build a board of eight to 10 people from Putnam County.

Club representatives, with Putnam County school officials, will search for employees through a job fair from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. July 28 at the Putnam County campus of Central Georgia Technical College. 

Robertson said the club is looking for “certified teachers and paraprofessionals, as well as youth development professionals,” and also will need some specialized instructors in art, dance, fitness and other areas.

“Hopefully, we will gain a great pool of candidates to choose from at the job fair,” she said. 

After the program is established, volunteers will be needed to read with the children, help with homework, work on art projects and help with community service projects.

“We’d love to see retired teachers, civic club members, come in and work with the kids,” Robertson said. 

Call the corporate office at 770-267-8034 for more information.