CHATSWORTH — Brenden Long believes the activities at the Boys and Girls Clubs at Bagley Middle School are helping him in more ways than one.
“I’m able to read books I want to read — or need to read if I’m falling behind in school,” said the seventh-grader. “I like to help out the little kids with their homework and play games with them, too.”
Long, 12, is one of dozens of children in the Bagley after-school program who have been the beneficiary of a $3,000 donation of electronic reading devices through the Leadership Murray program. Bagley Middle Unit Director Tony Causby detailed club activities and how they are affecting local youth to the Rotary Club of Chatsworth-Murray County last week.
Causby was asked to speak by Rotary Club member Dianne Whitt, who is the unit director at the Chatsworth Elementary Boys and Girls Clubs.
In January 2009 the Bagley unit started with two kids. Now there are 70 to 80 children a day in the after-school program, and the number doubles to around 160 kids county-wide when the younger set from Chatsworth Elementary is added.
According to Causby, the older children at Bagley are learning to run a business through the “Career Launch” program.
“Part of it is they set shorter and longer goals,” he said. “Chief Vann Video donated 500 video games when they went out of business, and the teens started a video store and are doing a business plan that includes resumes, interviewing, hiring and filling out applications. They have a store manager, an assistant manager and a treasurer to run the store.”
The club members are now able to check out video games using “Boys and Girls Clubs Bucks,” and at the end of the day — just like a real business — they balance the books.
“These kids in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will be able to write their resume as a result of this experience,” Causby said. “The 80 report cards we’ve seen (from their schools) show a 3.5 grade point average.”
Members of the current Leadership Murray class — sponsored by the Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce and designed to train and inform up-and-coming local leaders about county, regional and state issues — raised $3,000 and donated Kindle readers, “Innotab” learning tablets for kids, a flat screen TV with stand and bean bag chairs for comfortable reading.
Ian Tankersley, a co-chair of the 2011-2012 edition of Leadership Murray, said each class has sub-groups that decide on a community project to support.
“It wasn’t a big fundraising effort the one group did for Boys and Girls Clubs,” he said. “They just found out what the needs were and went out and asked for donations.”
Carli Smith, 12, likes having a reading room where she can use the Kindles and “leapfrog” devices that help her read more books.
“It helps with my schoolwork, and (the Kindle) has a dictionary, too,” said the Woodlawn Elementary sixth-grader. “The dictionary helps with words we don’t know when we’re reading novels.”
Asked her favorite part of Boys and Girls Clubs, Averi Burrell, 9, mentioned the “Power Hour” homework time — and then getting to “switch programs” to the game room, recreation or reading.
“I like it because there’s lots of nice people here,” she said.
Riley Powell, 10, also likes the homework time and then getting to play games on the same electronic devices.
“I like the Kindle Fire,” said the Woodlawn fourth-grader, who was asked what he would be doing if he didn’t come to Boys and Girls Clubs after school.
“I’d just be bored at home,” he admitted.
‘Grand Country Celebration’ March 24
The third annual “Grand Country Celebration,” a country, gospel and bluegrass music fundraiser of the Murray units of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Gordon, Murray and Whitfield Counties, will be held at Bagley Middle School on Saturday, March 24, with dinner at 6 p.m. and the show to follow at 7 p.m.
The popular show is billed as “a fun filled night of music and down home cooking featuring some of the best musicians in Murray County that takes you on a trip back in time exploring the history of country music and its ties to the Deep South.”
Special appearances last year were by Chatsworth Police Chief Terry Martin, who transported “Willie Nelson” (Charlie McBrayer) from the jail to the show and took the handcuffs off him long enough to play a song; a “Dolly Parton” lookalike; and many more “country music stars.”
Tickets are $15 and may be purchased from staff members at the Boys and Girls Clubs at Bagley Middle or Chatsworth Elementary schools, or by calling (706) 529-5032.