How The Boys & Girls Clubs Of Martin County, Celebrating 25 Years, Makes An Impact On Our Community's Youth

by Wendy Dwyer Dec 2016 Also on Digital Edition

With 25 years under its belt, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County continues to impact the lives of our community’s youth.

During his younger years, Hobe Sound resident Christian Rembert was getting bad grades, getting into trouble, and he wasn’t all that motivated to do otherwise. But from the moment Rembert began attending the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, he started to turn his life around. “I went from a D and F student to an A and B student because the staff kept my mind focused on graduating,” he says. 

Graduating wasn’t enough for Rembert, who also embraced the opportunity to give back to the organization. He now works as a program specialist at Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County/Lehigh Acres Club and is taking college courses at Florida Gulf Coast University with the dream of owning his own barbershop. Rembert’s story is one of thousands about the power of productivity and potential, two key elements taught through the mission of the Boys & Girls Club. Experiences like Rembert’s are the reason for the start of the organization locally, and the reason it has continued its service for 25 years later. 

 

Back To The Beginning

Peggy Cole with Ros Clark at the organization’s 20th anniversary celebration. 

Slightly more than 25 years ago, Hobe Sound resident Margaret “Peggy” Cole, whose husband served on the national board for Boys & Girls Club, noticed that the children of her small community needed an outlet for their energy and enthusiasm, especially during those all-important hours after school. She had heard about a Boys & Girls Club national merit scholar who had lived in 17 different foster homes, and it struck Cole that, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, this child had thrived. Inspired, Cole worked to make a club happen in Hobe Sound, and by 1991, the first club opened in a storefront in the Winn-Dixie Shopping Plaza in Hobe Sound. Clearly, Cole was onto something, as 165 children became members nearly from the time the club opened its doors. From those humble beginnings, there are now five clubs scattered throughout Martin County in Hobe Sound, Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City and Indiantown, with just fewer than 2,000 members. And while the Boys & Girls Club is certainly a fun place for kids to gather after school, you’d be making a mistake to think that’s the only impact made by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County.

 

Making A Difference

There are five core programs that comprise the heart of every Boys & Girls Club, and the clubs in Martin County are no different. They include: building academic confidence and success; character and good citizenship; health and wellness; sports, fitness and recreation; and the arts, which include digital, fine and performance arts. The goal is to help encourage youth ages 6 to 18 to develop all five of these core portions of their personality to help prepare them to make healthy choices and become contributing, valued members of the community. Locally, members are encouraged to also graduate from high school on time with a plan for continued success through adulthood. It’s no small task, but the members of the club are enthusiastic, and the staff and facilitators are both dedicated and energetic in their efforts to achieve these core goals. 

On any given day, members of the Boys & Girls Club will work on homework and improving academic skills, participate in sporting programs that they might not otherwise be able to afford, enjoy a healthy after-school snack, learn about and celebrate cultures different from their own, and enjoy time with their friends and a cadre of dedicated staff members who have their best interests in mind. Participants might also be exposed to a host of more than 250 active volunteers who introduce them to new skill sets and ideas through presentations and activities designed for just that purpose. 

 

Help From The Community

The slogan of Boys & Girls Club is “great futures start here,” but staff and board members know that, without the participation of active volunteers and community supporters, this would be little more than a catchy slogan. With a quarter of a century under its belt, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County values support and partnerships with the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, the Hobe Sound Community Chest, the United Way of Martin County, and dozens of business, corporate and individual partners who step up to the plate regularly to ensure the organization’s continued success and positive impact. 

Martha Ann Kneiss, marketing and development manager for Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, says these volunteers and business partners make a huge difference in the lives of the youth who are members. “Because of our donors and partners, we are able to give scholarships to some kids so they can participate and enjoy the services offered by Boys & Girls Club, and it’s always great to see other organizations working together to help one another and the families in our area,” she says. 

 

The Fun In Fundraising 

Providing and maintaining a program that benefits 2,000 children every week is no small feat, and to keep things running smoothly for 25 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County also relies on a few signature fundraising events, all of which have taken on an extra luster for the organization’s silver anniversary celebration. On Jan. 26 the Jupiter Island Club will host its 23rd Annual Benefit for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County. On Feb. 28, the Willoughby Golf Club will host the Youth of the Year Dinner & Awards Celebration, and on March 13, Michael Mukasey, the 81st U.S. attorney general, will keynote the Distinguished Speaker’s Luncheon at Sailfish Point County Club. Throughout all of the celebrations and events, the mission of Boys & Girls Club, which is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” serves as a constant reminder that the children of our community are the heart of a great future. 

Bridget Dunigan, a Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County member, was crowned Martin County High School’s homecoming queen

For Bridget Dunigan, the local organization’s 2016 Youth of the Year, participating in the Boys & Girls Club has helped her develop leadership and academic skills that she plans to use as she moves forward. In addition to being named the Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Club’s Port Salerno branch and for Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, Bridget was a Florida State Youth of the Year finalist, representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County. Dunigan also served as her high school class vice president and then president, and president of the Keystone Club at the Port Salerno Club. Involved in her community, she also participated as a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Hispanic Student Association, the debate team and the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA). Dunigan was also recently crowned Martin County High School’s homecoming queen. Like Christian Rembert, Dunigan’s experience as a member of the Boys & Girls Club helped shape her future and inspire a desire to give back to the community and help others. “I was supported through every challenge and stress of advanced placement classes ... prepping me for college,” she says.  

Kneiss says it’s not unusual for club members to come back to support the organization that helped them achieve their goals and dreams, and she says the leadership of the board is also a factor in the success the quarter-century-old organization has found. “Our board is strong, involved, dedicated and actively interested in growing the program to support youth.” She points to the newest club in Indiantown, which was opened just a few years ago, saying it’s an amazing place for kids to go.

Growing up is not an easy task, and with each new generation, unique challenges and obstacles present themselves. For children in Martin County, it’s nice knowing there is always a place to go where they are met with kindness and concern, encouraged to learn and grow, and inspired to become the best they can be. And while it may be called the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, there is no doubt that the end result is a generation of confident, prepared, self-assured, tolerant and successful women and men who will go on to lead and shape the future.  

“I was supported through every challenge and stress of advanced placement classes ... prepping me for college” - Bridget Dunigan


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