Because of a death in the family, Charlotte Irwin is raising seven children, her own and four great nieces and great nephews. Keeping the school age children entertained in the summer is a challenge for the Hogansville mother. She found the answer at the Boys and Girls Club at Hogansville Elementary School.
“It gives them a place to play and meet friends. They put their best behavior forward and bring home awards for good behavior. That means a lot to me,” Irwin said.
For Terri Reeves, mother of two, having the Hogansville club means she can work.
“I can’t afford day care. I work at the post office in Newnan and during the school year, they have the after school program. In the summer, they’re here, too. I know if they’re here, there’s nothing to worry about,” Reeves said.
The Hogansville unit of Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia is the result of a partnership between the school and the club. It’s a model that club director Bart McFadden wants to expand into other Troup County schools.
“It’s a common sense partnership. If you look at the numbers of students on the free lunch program, you see a tremendous financial need in many of our Troup County schools. After-care programs are expensive, even the school sponsored programs. We can help with that,” McFadden said.
Boys and Girls Clubs of West Georgia has programs at three locations - Hogansville, LaGrange and Pike County. The clubs served 430 children in the past school year with 74 percent coming from single-parent families and 83 percent receiving free or reduced school lunches.
At Hogansville Elementary School, the school sponsored after school program averaged about 30 children a day at a cost of $7 a day per child. Debbie Dollar ran the program in 2008 when Boys and Girls Club stepped in.
“At the time, we met in the cafeteria, helped the children with their homework, then just played. There was no program,” Dollar said.
When Boys and Girls Club offered an alternative program, Dollar took on the job as unit director.
“We still help the children with their homework, but we also have a curriculum for them called ‘Smart Moves.’ It teaches them to be responsible and motivated and helps to build character. For the older ones, we have leadership training and, of course, we have lots of games,” Dollar said.
The cost for a year of after school care with Boys and Girls Clubs is $20. An all-day summer program is also provided at the school for $60.
“We’re able to have a more cost-effective program because of our ability to receive grants and donations,” McFadden said. “Partnering our program with schools maximizes the kids’ time with structure, intentional activities and activities that promote healthy lifestyles and academics.”
Currently, the Boys and Girls Club after school program serves more than 100 children - about 25 percent of the Hogansville Elementary student body attends the after school program every day.
“We’re building a team around these kids,” McFadden said. “I would like to develop more of these school partnerships so we can really help meet the needs of a large group of kids who need to be served. This is a model I hope to replicate.”
While Dollar helped get the program up and running in 2008, she had to step down from the position to take care of family responsibilities. However, she returned recently to take the job again.
“It’s a tremendous program for children,” Dollar said. “I see so many opportunities in front of me. I look in their eyes and I see our future. We’re not here for ourselves, we’re here for these boys and girls.”