Boys and Girls Club Reopens in Natchitoches #ForOurFuture

The Natchitoches community gathered with excitement and a sense of fulfillment on Feb. 25 at the Ben Johnson Auditorium, the site of a new Boys & Girls Club, which will open on March 21.

The Natchitoches Club will serve approximately 100 children and will operate from 3-7 pm during the school year and from 8 am – 5 pm during the summer. Registration will open within the next few weeks.

Following an invocation by Senator Louie Bernard, former Mayor Lee Posey and Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. spoke to the history and the future hopes of the club in Natchitoches.

Chief Volunteer Officer for the Boys & Girls Club of America Ben Lognion introduced the Keynote Speaker, BGCA Chief Operations Officer Lorraine Orr, who spoke about how the youth have been affected by the impact of the recent pandemic. Teen suicides rose, students started to fall behind academically, and some began experiencing a heightened amount of abuse while trapped at home.

At the start of the pandemic 4,000 Boys & Girls clubs closed overnight. The instability and isolation children began experiencing are reasons why they need the services the Boys & Girls Clubs provide. At the start of March, 2020 there were only 500 clubs open across the country. This number rose to 3,700 in 2021 and the BGCA plans to open its 5,000th club before the end of 2022.

“This growth came because of a need,” Orr explained. “It speaks to the viability and need for these clubs.”

Orr topped off her presentation by announcing a $25,000 commitment to the Natchitoches Club on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Bringing the club back to Natchitoches after it closed due to financial/operational issues in 2018 has been an undertaking by many. The Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana was approached soon after the closure, and while they were unable to commit so soon, they promised they’d be back.

Fast forward to 2022 and a new chapter for Natchitoches will begin. When asked what challenges they encountered, Acadiana Club President and CEO Rhyan Wheeler said the community support in Natchitoches has been amazing.

“Not all communities are like this,” she said.

While Rhyan was pleased with the financial commitment on the front end, she added that the Natchitoches Club will need the continued support of the community to ensure its sustainability. This comes in the form of monthly donations and corporate sponsors.  Funds will be used for general operating expenses.

The Club’s mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need their services the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. It provides afterschool and summer programs for youth ages 6-18, focusing on 3 impact areas: Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles & Habits and Good Character & Leadership. Kids receive healthy meals/snacks daily, homework help, guidance from highly-trained staff and a safe place to learn and grow.