It makes Donyell “DJ” Jones happy to see young people walk through the Blue Doors of the Boys & Girls Clubs. Even when those doors aren’t blue – like those clubs that operate within schools, for example – Jones is confident that the programming and support remains aligned with the philosophy of the stand-alone clubs that have been in existence for 160 years.
Jones is CEO of the Boys & Girls Club North Central North Carolina, which operates clubs in Vance, Granville, Warren, Franklin and Halifax counties.
He talked with John C. Rose on Tuesday’s TownTalk to provide an update on the status of clubs, how COVID-19 has negatively affected staff and to talk about a couple of local renovation projects that are about to crank up to improve club facilities in Henderson and Oxford.
“We had to be very flexible over the past year,” Jones said, referring to getting back into the swing of things following the pandemic shutdown. But now, club members have returned and BGC is getting back to the business of provide quality after-school care and programming.
The administrative offices are located in Oxford, in a building that is connected to the club building. Jones said he and other office staff are once again experiencing the “laughter and energy that we missed so much when (the children) were home.”
Over the summer, key BGC leaders gathered to identify some key priority areas, Jones said. From those discussions, the group refined a three-year strategic priority plan, which includes creating safe, state-of-the-art facilities as well as intentional programming to reflect the different needs of each club site and the ever-present question of financial sustainability.
The Oxford club is getting a much-needed facelift that is set to begin in February 2023, Jones said.
Jones said a general contractor has been hired and the work, once begun, will transform current outdated bathroom facilities, how club members enter and exit the club, as well as other integral renovations to club space.
“The esthetics and lighting are going to be awesome,” Jones said. “I know it’s going to be a great thing for our young people.” Plans include a new gaming room, collaborative spaces for projects and more improvements to allow for better programming.
The Clark Street club in Henderson also is getting some attention, thanks to help from Goodwill Community Foundation. “That facility needs a little love,” Jones said, adding that Goodwill’s contribution will help take care of most of the items on the wish list there.
Simply put, Jones said, “the kids really deserve it.”
The idea is that newly renovated spaces will attract new members as well, but right now, Jones said that all clubs in BGCNCNC currently open have wait lists.
Why? Like so many other workplaces, there’s not enough staff.
The number of employees dictates the number of kids at the club, Jones said. “We need part-time youth development professionals for our after-school sites,” he said. The biggest need is in Franklin County, but more staff also is needed in the Henderson and Oxford clubs.
They’re looking for individuals who have “a patience and a genuine love for young people,” he said, and it’d be a bonus to have special skills, whether they be in the arts, or STEM education, just to name a couple.
But most of all, he said, clubs need staff who are consistent and who “bring a different vibe and energy to our clubs.”
Jones said safety is the number one priority, and staff must effectively supervise club members while engaging them to address the specific needs of the young people who attend the club.
Some clubs based in schools have reopened, including the one at Northside Elementary in Warren County. The club at Carver Elementary in Vance County is set to reopen in January, but Jones said it’s unclear when Franklinton Middle School may reopen.