Years ago, a boy was hanging with his friends and throwing rocks, attempting to break windows on a train that was passing by. A man saw what the boys were doing and stopped one of them and told him about a place where he could do something better… be better. So, he took the boy to a local Boys Club (which would later become the Boys and Girls Club), and he began to thrive. As that boy continued to grow, the man who got him started at the Boys Club was present for the best moments and milestones of that young man’s life such as his graduation and his wedding. The young man, Jerome Levisy, went on to become the current CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Durham and Orange Counties This story is a testament to the powerful, positive impact the Boys and Girls Club can have on a kid’s life.
“When I was growing up, I participated in a Boys Club, and I knew if it wasn’t for that Boys Club molding me into the type of person I am today then I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you. I would be incarcerated or would most likely be dead,” Levisy said. “So, the Boys Club saved my life. I get emotional because I know that I’m saving lives,” said Jerome.
Recently, people and organizations from all over the community gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Boys and Girls Club, which is now located in South Durham and is three to four times larger than their previous facility. An emotional Jerome beamed with pride as he gave us a tour of the facility and the great features and resources that are now available to the kids. His dream and vision for a state-of-the-art space for these kids became reality when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) made a substantial donation to kick things off, aligning with our mission of improving the health and well-being of its communities. Other companies in the community soon followed with more funding, and the rest is history. The new facility will eventually be able to double the Boys and Girls Club capacity of kids it serves
“We are honored to be able to support and help provide children with the safe spaces they need to be creative, healthy and empowered,” said Cheryl Parquet, director of Community Diversity and Engagement for Blue Cross NC.
To give you an idea of how critical the Club’s support is, without The Boys and Girls Club and people like Jerome, here are a couple of statistics:
- Almost seventy percent of the children they assist would not receive their next meal until the next school day.
- Over seventy percent would go to a home without adult supervision and almost 90 percent would not get enough exercise during the day.
“Can you imagine what it would have been like if you had a space like this to play and hang out in as a kid?” said Jerome as we walked around the massive building, now a safe haven for kids in the community.
One can’t overstate the importance of a healthy environment
where kids can come after school, not only for their safety but for their overall health.
Up to seventy percent of a person’s health is influenced by things that happen outside of the doctor’s office. Investments in programs for kids at an early age sets them up for a healthier future, not just physically but also mentally. It’s even better to have a Boys and Girls Club in a safe and secure environment, which is what this new location accomplishes. “It wasn’t uncommon for us to hear gunshots at our old location,” said Benay Hicks, Director of Operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Durham and Orange Counties.
While adults in attendance were excited about the new facility, the kids’ reactions are what everyone was waiting for. From my point of view, it was priceless. The pure jubilation, their screams of joy while running around the new facility, and their laughing, in my opinion, was the sound of hope becoming reality.
The smiles on the kids’ faces are the result of the community coming and working together to make sure that its kids have the opportunity to learn and thrive as they grow up. More importantly, the community showed that anything is possible when it works together, and because of that, it keeps hope alive for a better and brighter tomorrow. The kids can look at Jerome and know that they have a chance to excel and succeed. Who knows? Maybe in the future, one of those smiling kids will be leading this very Boys and Girls Club someday.