Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Pittsboro club, Chatham’s second, set to open in early 2021

Posted 10/28/20

PITTSBORO — Kyle Shipp thought of himself as just an ordinary citizen when he attended a Pittsboro town hall meeting in late 2018.

“Some people came to the meeting and gave public comments …

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Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Pittsboro club, Chatham’s second, set to open in early 2021

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PITTSBORO — Kyle Shipp thought of himself as just an ordinary citizen when he attended a Pittsboro town hall meeting in late 2018.

“Some people came to the meeting and gave public comments about middle school kids going downtown after school,” he said. “They said there had been some fights and stuff.”

The notion bothered him, but Shipp thought he was in no position to address it. A year later, though, he was campaigning for a seat on Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners when the subject resurfaced.

“As a candidate, I was at the NAACP forum when the problem came up again. So, I thought, ‘Why don’t we have a Boys & Girls Club?’” he said. “It’s obviously something the community really needs and could use.’”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a national organization with the stated mission to “do whatever it takes to build great futures for America’s young people.” BGCA is divided into more than 4,700 local chapters around the country serving 4.6 million young people, according to its latest annual report.

In Shipp’s evaluation, Pittsboro was the perfect candidate for a new chapter.

“After school, we don’t have rec football, we don’t have the Boys & Girls Club, we don’t have any options for these kids to go to,” Shipp said. “There are things like the YMCA, but not everyone can afford that.”

After he was elected as a town commissioner last year, Shipp set to work making his vision a reality.

“(When) I got my feet under me a little bit as a commissioner, I started looking into how the process works and I found out basically that it’s sort of a franchise model,” he said. “You work through an existing organization.”

For Pittsboro, the closest established organization was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, a three-county organization based in Sanford with clubs in Harnett County (in Lillington) and a Siler City club, hosted at the Wren Family Center.

Its CEO, Daniel Simmons, was thrilled to hear Shipp’s proposal for a Pittsboro club.

“Kyle has been great,” he said. “He kind of kicked things off there and then the town council in Pittsboro got behind him. They voted on it and issued a declaration several months ago saying that they wanted to see a Boys & Girls Club started there.”

Immediately thereafter, Shipp launched an exploratory committee with Simmons’ support to ascertain citizen interest in starting a club.

“We met and just kind of talked about what it would take to make it happen,” Shipp said. “And the process for getting started was a steering committee to gauge interest. Then right when it came back and people were saying, ‘OK, sounds good’ — then, of course, immediately the pandemic hit.”

COVID-19’s impact

When the novel coronavirus swept the nation back in March, Shipp was forced to table his plans.

“Nobody was able to get together,” he said. “So, that kind of put it on hold for a little bit.”

Though his aspirations were temporarily derailed, the pandemic lent more convincing evidence in support of Shipp’s argument to establish a Pittsboro club than anything else could have.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, with its three locations in Sanford, Siler City and Lillington, have in recent months assumed a more important role in the daily of lives of N.C. youth than ever before. The clubs have always provided structure and supervision for children through the summer months and during after-school hours. But especially through the pandemic, they have been instrumental in keeping hundreds of children healthy and on track to success.

“With schools not being in session for in-person learning, we knew that parents were scrambling,” Simmons said. “And so, we’ve essentially become a remote learning site for the public education system ... Our staff know their schedules, and do their best to make sure that all of them are logging onto their synchronous classes on time and, you know, paying attention and engaging. And we’re providing breakfast and lunch every single day free of charge to every kid that comes.”

Each club serves about 50 to 60 children, many of whom come from low-income families. Meals and wholesome recreation are not always guaranteed when school is not in session, so the expanded services have been indispensable. With responsible supervision, reliable internet connections and two square meals a day, the Boys & Girls Clubs have provided inestimable value to the children they serve.

“And that’s what we need,” Shipp said. “Pittsboro needs that.”

Plans resume

By June, COVID-19 notwithstanding, Shipp felt he had waited long enough.

“I said, ‘Well, you know, who knows when we’ll be able to meet in-person again. So, let’s just get going on this,’” he said.

Since then, Shipp’s team has met regularly via Zoom and is barreling toward its tenuous goal for a January opening. But there is still much that remains to be accomplished.

“That’s not that far from now,” Shipp said. “I think it’s less than 100 days away and we’ve got to raise $220,000, at least, by then in order to be able to open ... So, far we have raised $0.”

Those funds would only cover operations expenses, Shipp said. But the committee must also secure a location for the new club. Any expenses incurred in that process would be additional.

“Last week we toured Horton Middle School and the Kiwanis Club (building),” Shipp said. “Our result of that is we think the Kiwanis Club is a better fit and they’re also extremely interested in working with us.”

The Pittsboro Kiwanis Club’s facility, a 2,700 square foot building on Credle Street, north of downtown, would offer a central location to host the Pittsboro Boys & Girls Club and its owners share a commitment to helping America’s youth.

“It’s their mission to help kids, as well,” Shipp said, “and there’s a national, I guess, agreement between Kiwanis and Boys & Girls clubs where they work together on a national level as well. So, there’s a lot of things that are good there.”

But the space would require some renovation. Last week, Shipp’s team visited the building with Hobbs Architects to evaluate its needs. The facility will, at least, need modification of its handicap accessibility and the kitchen will eventually need to be certified.

“But there’s the possibility we find the building needs a quarter million (dollars) in renovation,” Shipp said, “and we can’t do that. So, we’re still in the investigation stage.”

Any further steps to solidify the partnership are pending the results of that analysis. If all goes well, though, a January grand opening seems plausible.

“One more important thing, though,” Shipp said, “is that what really continues (the process) is called the advisory board.”

Last week, the exploratory committee, whose job it was to investigate the level of need in Pittsboro, “agreed to transition…to now an advisory council,” Simmons said. According to Shipp, the advisory board will serve as the governing body and driving force behind future progress.

The board’s members, so far, are Chevon File (Hobbs Architects), Chris Kennedy (Pittsboro Town Manager), Shipp (Pittsboro Town Commissioner), Shorty Johnson (Pittsboro Police Chief), Rev. Samuel Lassiter (Davis Chape), Zack Chutz (Pittsboro Elementary), Rev. Corey Little (Mitchell Chapel), KT Leary (Kiwanis) and Mary Nettles (NAACP).

“It’s kind of like the board of directors for the club,” Shipp said. “... We are looking for probably two to five more folks who are really integrated in the community and care about children. A specific need is someone who could act as treasurer. Most of the financial management is done by Boys & Girls Club of Central Carolina but we need the representation on our board.”

If you are interested in serving on the Pittsboro Boys & Girls club advisory board, Shipp would like to have a conversation.

“I would certainly be happy to talk to anyone about a donation or serving on the Advisory Council,” he said.

Kyle Shipp can be reached via email at kshipp@pittsboronc.gov or by phone at (919) 200-6656.

Contributions to the Pittsboro Boys & Girls club can be made at centralcarolinaclubs.org/donate/

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com.

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