Ch@t: Central Carolina clubs growing, evolving to serve more youngsters

Posted 2/14/20

Daniel Simmons is the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, a youth development organization which serves nearly 500 children per day across Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties. In …

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Ch@t: Central Carolina clubs growing, evolving to serve more youngsters

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Daniel Simmons is the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, a youth development organization which serves nearly 500 children per day across Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties. In addition, Simmons serves as a Guardian ad Litem in the district court system, is the incoming chairperson for the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and works as a faculty member at Central Carolina Community College where he teaches courses in business administration and human resources management. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music & business administration from Winthrop University and a Master of Science degree in Human Resources from Indiana Wesleyan University. Simmons also holds the SHRM-CP certification from the Society of Human Resource Management. Simmons’s wife Jessica is a Lee County native and a 19-year educator who serves as the band director of New Century Middle School in Moore County.

Can you talk about the work that’s been done in the last year at the Wren Family Center, and how it’s changing how the club serves Chatham kids?

The most significant project right now is the installation of a kitchen and dining room in the newly-renovated east wing of the Wren Family Center Boys & Girls Club. The project, funded by a family foundation outside of Chatham County, will allow us to prepare meals each day for our kids in-house. This means our kids will receive a dinner each day after school. Plus, they’ll receive breakfast and lunch during our summer camp. The kitchen and dining room will also support special events like our annual Thanksgiving meal which served almost 200 club members and parents this past November. Finally, we plan to implement culinary programs with our kids using the kitchen. The plans are made and we’ve already purchased most of the appliances. However, we are currently in the throes of the permit process with Chatham County Government. Once we’re past the permit phase, we’ll be full steam ahead on installation.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina just opened a new Club in Harnett County. How has that changed things for your staff?

We’re certainly a lot busier, but it’s a great thing. Opening the Robin Paige Club in Lillington was a real joy and something we’d been working on for at least a couple of years. We have a joke amongst our staff. We call U.S. Hwy. 421 “The Boys & Girls Clubs Corridor.” Nowadays, we spend a good bit of time traveling U.S. 421 between Siler City, Sanford, and Lillington as we visit the clubs and engage in civic work in those communities. We also find ourselves doing more conference calls. It’s not abnormal for our resource development coordinator, our director of operations and me to be in three different counties while we’re on phone meetings with one another. The other thing I really love: Our club directors and board members are collaborating with one another. I’m seeing our clubs grow stronger because of the best practices we’re sharing with one another across county lines. By the way, I’ve already had meetings about starting a club in eastern Harnett County (Dunn). Our basic model of each community funding its own club seems to be working.

The club’s annual Youth of the Year celebration was Jan. 30, and the club is hosting the state competition for 2020. Tell us about that.

For nearly 70 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated the nation’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year America’s premier leadership and recognition program for teens. Becoming National Youth of the Year is an exciting and inspiring journey.

Each year, thousands of club teens participate in local, state and regional Youth of the Year events. State Youth of the Year winners receive $5,000 in college scholarships. Regional Youth of the Year finalists each receive $10,000 in college scholarships, renewable for four years up to $40,000. The National Youth of the Year receives an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable each year up to $100,000. Also, each of the six finalists make a trip to the White House where they will meet with the President in the Oval Office.

Of course, we recently completed the adjudication process for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina 2020 Youth of the Year. The winner was announced Jan. 30 at our annual “Dinner of Champions” event. Participants come from Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties. This year, Jamir Wright of Siler City’s Wren Family Center Club was our winner.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and we chose to host the state Youth of the Year conference as a means of celebrating our 25 years of service dating back to the opening of the Boys & Girls Club in Sanford in 1995. The state Youth of the Year Competition for N.C. will take place on April 3-4 at the Dennis Wicker Civic Center in Sanford. Contestants from local Boys & Girls Clubs and from The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs across N.C. will compete for the title of “North Carolina Youth of the Year.” The Chatham News + Record’s Bill Horner III will serve as the Chief Adjudicator for the event.

You have a program designed for small, medium and large-sized businesses in the area that allows them to invest in the Boys & Girls Clubs. What is that about?

Recently, a University of Michigan School of Public Health study found that an investment of $1 in a Boys & Girls Club provides $9.60 in current and future economic benefits back to the local community. We’re making it easy for local businesses to make the investment. Our Corporate Partners program is designed to promote your business as both generous and socially responsible to your current and future customers, and to make your support of the kids easy. We promote your business via our web/social media platform of over 3,000 followers, as well as our mailing and email lists of over 2,000 recipients that receive correspondence throughout the entire year. The program allows you to make your unrestricted investment through one donation (or installments) and, in exchange, you can participate in many of our social and special events throughout the year. You can learn more on our website at centralcarolinaclubs.org or email Elizabeth Colebrook at elizabeth.colebrook@centralcarolinaclubs.org.

You’re really focused on workforce development. What are the clubs doing in that arena?

Coming from a professional and educational background in human resources, I am always keen on making sure we support the career planning and development of our youth. I am the incoming chairperson of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and I serve on the board of directors for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance. I care a great deal about our local economy, so I’m trying to work both sides of the equation: workforce development and economic development. We partnered this year with the Triangle South Workforce Development Board to bring their “NextGen” workforce development program to our kids. Staff from the TSWDB in all three counties utilize the online NCWorks system, in-person consultations and classes, community college and university tours, and more to help our kids explore and plan their careers. Also, the professionals at the TSWDB make themselves available to the parents of our kids to offer the same services and more. Our future plans include implementing internship and apprenticeship programs with local businesses to allow our youth hands-on opportunities to learn while giving our local businesses an opportunity to train and recruit future talent. It’s a win-win.

Is the state’s budget process having any effect on the Boys & Girls Clubs?

We are very grateful for the support our club members have received and continue to receive in recent years from our state government. Our relationship with the General Assembly and with Governor Cooper have been very positive and continues to flourish.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina currently receives an allocation of approximately $100,000 per year to support academic and healthy lifestyle programs in our multiple clubs. This is about 8 percent of our total organizational budget. The total block of funds allocated to Boys & Girls Clubs across NC is nearly $3,000,000. These funds are allocated by the General Assembly and come through the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Without these funds, we could not offer our current level of service. Without these funds, we would certainly have to reduce the number of children served by our organization. Unfortunately, though the fiscal year began in July 2019, it is now February and we have not received any allocation of funds. Furthermore, it is my understanding that we will not receive an allocation until a budget is passed by our state government.

I have been in contact with all of our state legislators that represent our service area. I’ve asked them to remember how this delay in budget is currently affecting and will continue to affect thousands of Boys & Girls Clubs kids in communities, including ours, across N.C., many of whom are already living in disadvantaged financial and family circumstances. We remain hopeful that our elected officials will come to an agreement on the budget. In the meantime, we’re watching our finances exceptionally close to make sure we can weather the storm.

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