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Anyone driving past Wendy’s on Richmond Hill has likely seen a new sight at the Delta Fellowship Church. After nearly a year-and-a-half of careful planning and with the generous support of many in Phillips County and beyond, the Boys & Girls Club of Phillips County recently opened its doors to a capacity crowd and has maintained a full-house ever since.

“I’m very proud that we kept our promise to the wonderful people of Phillips County who have supported us and made this possible,” said board member Doug Friedlander. “We promised there would be a Boys & Girls Club up and running in Phillips County by June 2006 and there is.”

“Things have been going remarkably smooth so far,” said Executive Director Jason Rolett. “We’ve been very pleased by the support of the community, from volunteering to the donation of materials. The kids have also been great. They have treated the Club, the staff, and one another with respect and everyone seems to be having a very good time.”

Club members agree. “I and my three younger sisters come to the club just about every day,” said Miller 8th grader Dwight House Jr. “I play pool, Ping-Pong, bumper pool, basketball and baseball. My sisters like volleyball, the art room, and the computer room. We all like the other kids and the staff. This is a good place for kids.”

“We have members here of all ages and everyone is getting along great,” said Program Coordinator Barney Glenn. Glenn, who grew up in Phillips County and returned 10 years ago after being away for 32 years, knows many of the members and their families through his church and through his work as a substitute teacher. “There are little arguments and disagreements but we use those as opportunities to teach them how to handle conflict. They’re not bad kids. They need leadership and guidance and the Boys & Girls Club gives them that. This is not babysitting. It’s a positive environment and a learning experience. I am very excited to be here and to do be doing the work we’re doing.”

The families of the members have also been very pleased by the club. “At the end of the day when I pick up my grandchildren, they can’t stop talking about the fun they’ve had, what they’ve learned, and how they can’t wait to come back the next day,” said grandparent Regener Boards. “They always come home with projects they’ve worked on and I’ve discovered that they’re very talented in areas I had no idea about. I think the Boys & Girls Club will be very beneficial to our area. It keeps the children off the streets, gives them something to do, and puts the parent’s minds at ease because they know their children are in a very safe and enriching environment.”

Rolett explained that according to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a typical Boys & Girls Club will have 25 percent of its members at the club at any given moment. So far, the Boys & Girls Club of Phillips County has been regularly seeing more than 50 percent of its members at any given time, with an average of more than 70 percent for the whole first week.

“It’s a very positive thing to have such a high percentage of members here each day,” added Rolett. “The only down side is that it prevents us from signing up more members. We have had to turn away nearly as many kids as we’ve signed up because we’ve reached the capacity of our current facility.”

Currently, the Boys & Girls Club is housed in its temporary location at the Delta Fellowship Church. Over the coming year, the club will be working to renovate the old H&M building on the corner of Plaza St. and Highway 49 Bypass. Once completed, the Boys & Girls Club will be able to accommodate substantially more members than it currently serves. To reach that milestone, the Boys & Girls Club has a few major steps to take. First, among those is the need to complete the $236,000 challenge grant from the Morris & Hornor families, which will result in the donation of the building they will be renovating. At this point, the Boys & Girls Club only needs to raise about $50,000 more from local businesses, groups, individuals, or foundations to get the building.

“We will continue to try to creatively accommodate as many new members as we can in our current facility. If you are a parent who has not already signed up your child, you should still come down and put you name on our list, “said Rolett. “We also still have some space available for our “Teens Only” nights, which are Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. If you are between 13 and 18 years old and want to come to our “Teens Only” nights, come down and sign-up right away.”

The Boys & Girls Club also wants to invite anyone in the community interested in seeing the Club and what’s happening there to call to schedule a tour. To schedule a tour of the club, call Friedlander at (870) 816-8421 and leave a message.