The Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown for more than four decades has been a place where kids can retreat for fun, safety and learning. Members of the Freemasons want to help keep it that way.
For a membership fee of $7 per year, children age 6 through 18 can spend hours each day at the Oak Hill Avenue building. There are programs ranging from arts, computer labs and tutoring to various sports activities.
Interim executive director Rachel Kerns said the importance of the club is rooted in those programs. Proof that the programs and club approach are working is in the success rate, she added.
“This is incredibly important. High-school graduation rates are not all that well, and sometimes organizations such as ours are the only alternative for these kids. ... The graduation rate for our members is 90 percent, so it’s imperative that we remain operational,” said Kerns.
Jary Shane, a member of the Masons, and other local members of the masonic organization are doing what they can to help make sure the doors at the club remain open. That help will start with a dinner fundraiser next month.
The Masons will be sponsoring a creamed chicken over biscuits dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. May 30 at the Masonic Temple on Wick Avenue with all proceeds going toward operations at the Boys and Girls Club. Dinners can be eaten in or carried out.
The fundraiser will include door prizes and other events. One door prize will be an Ohio State University water cooler and a man’s watch.
“The Masons — we do a lot of charitable work and want the organization to completely benefit from the charitable work done by us. They don’t pay for anything. We cover the food and everything,” said Shane. “We did it last year and raised $1,500, and we are hoping to do even better this year.”
Timothy Johnson, also a Mason, said the organization is one of the largest charitable organizations in the world, giving away millions of dollars annually worldwide. The Boys and Girls Club mirrors the Masons in one key aspect.
“What we seek to do is take good men and make them better, and we do that by taking lessons we all learned in school and church and reinforcing them in a unique way,” said Johnson, “There are a lot of areas to our charitable giving, and the Boys and Girls Club is but one.”
Kerns said the Boys and Girls Club often is a safe haven for children who have parents working odd hours or children who may find themselves with too much idle time to fill. Shane said that is the type of work the Masons like to support.
“We support the children, and we support the efforts of the club,” he said. “It takes a lot to run an organization like that, and we like to do our part where we can.”