Feb. 19—The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia opened this year its 11th location and officially expanded into McIntosh County.
The new club, located in McIntosh County Middle School, serves kindergarten through eighth grade students and offers the same after-school programming available in the 10 locations in Glynn County.
Jim Pulos, superintendent of McIntosh County Schools, said the partnership with the Boys & Girls Club will be a great benefit for students and families in the community.
"We have an after school program at the elementary school provided by the Y, but we didn't have anything at the middle school," Pulos said.
Before opening the new location, the school system surveyed middle school parents to gauge interest and received a positive response. Many parents work in the afternoon, so programs like the one offered at the new Boys & Girls Club location provide the students with supervision as well as academic support and a snack and dinner.
Pulos said the school system and Boys & Girls Club leaders also wanted to make sure the program could be financially self-sufficient.
"Of course we have to make sure that we have buy-in by the community to support it," Pulos said. "We were fortunate enough to have conversations with the Sapelo Foundation folks. They have just done an amazing job of supporting this school system this year."
The Sapelo Foundation also recently provided funding for a Communities in Schools position in McIntosh County as well as scholarship opportunities. To support the new Boys & Girls Club location, the foundation provided a two-year matching grant.
"That was just amazing for them to step and do that," Pulos said. "Without them, we wouldn't have been able to start without us going around and trying to find more money. And that's not an easy task."
McIntosh County Schools designated an unused space in the middle school for the new location, and Boys & Girls Club staff members renovated the space and brought in furniture, games and more for the students to use and enjoy.
"We also extended the invitation out to parents in the elementary school," Pulos said.
A school bus picks the elementary students up after school and drops them off at the middle school location.
"They get off immediately under the supervision of the Boys & Girls Club, and they go into the cafeteria, get a snack and start homework time," Pulos said.
Students also participate in other after school activities like tutoring, SAT/ACT preparation, physical fitness and STEAM education.
When schools are closed, for long weekends or holiday breaks, Boys & Girls Club programs provide supervision, meals and activities for students, many of whom have parents who are working even when school's out.
Literacy education is emphasized at the new location, like in all Boys & Girls Club programs.
"We need to make sure that kids get an opportunity to read for 20 minutes daily," Pulos said. "... That's something we strive to do every day there."
Students began attending the new location in January, and participation numbers rose quickly, said Brian Dolan, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia.
The Boys & Girls Club has for many years hoped to expand services to students in McIntosh County, Dolan said. The stars aligned and the support came together quickly to make the opening of the 11th location possible, he said.
"We just feel like we can have a huge footprint in McIntosh and eventually serve every single kid who comes through the elementary, middle and high school at some point," Dolan said.
Those wishing to support the new program can donate online at bgcsega.com.
"We've become a mainstay and a much needed resource in Glynn County, and we want to do the same in McIntosh," Dolan said. "And it just means supporting financially or giving of your time. Both are extremely important, and we just want to be in the fabric of the McIntosh community every day."