With the simple buzz of the back door, visitors are welcomed into what has been known as a “safe place” for the children of Muncie for 85 years: the Boys & Girls Clubs of Muncie (BGC).
While Jason Newman, CEO of BGC of Muncie, has only been in the position for a year, he said he has witnessed more than 1,000 volunteers come together to support the 250 children BGC of Muncie serves.
“We have always been a safe place for kids. The definition of what a safe place for kids is, and what that requires, has changed over the past 85 years,” Newman said. “That has been the one standard throughout every year.”
Each child it serves carries a unique story with them. Newman said he has witnessed many stories within BGC of Muncie in his short year.
In one case, when one teenager missed a week of programming, BGC of Muncie saw an opportunity to serve. What Newman assumed was just an “everyday kind of kid” being sick one week was more than what appeared on the surface.
“...He said, ‘No. I was feeling fine. You know I have two outfits, and I hand wash them. I put them on our radiator to dry, and the heat got cut off. So that’s how long it took my clothes to defrost so I could go back to school,’” Newman said.
The teenager was not alone in this hard time, and BGC saw a need to provide a laundry room to its members, so they did.
Not only does BGC of Muncie provide resources such as a laundry room, but it provides care and education in multiple areas and attention.
For freshman interpersonal communications major Abbie VanMeter, what started as an interest at a volunteer fair has led to a weekly commitment. On Tuesdays, VanMeter gets on the bus, goes to Scheumann Stadium to get her car and drives to BGC of Muncie.
“You know, for a couple hours that's a lot of my day. But in the end, you know, it’s so far away, and I have so much to do,” VanMeter said. “It can be exhausting working with these kids. They have a lot of energy, but in the end it’s worth it. I always think I made the right choice when I come here. It’s rewarding.”
VanMeter looks at the children of BGC as “goofy little kids.” She has been able to work on homework with the kids and just talk to them.
“I think there's a lot of need in different areas in Muncie, so I would just encourage others to find something they are excited about and turn that into volunteering,” VanMeter said. “It’s just a beautiful combination.”
VanMeter isn’t the only one giving of her time at BGC of Muncie. Newman’s executive assistant, Amy Gibson, takes a half hour break from work to help a young man named Tony.
Newman has seen this time as the “highlight of both of their days.” Tony, who has had trouble in school and at the club in the past, received a positive referral. The positive referral is now hanging on Gibson’s filing cabinet, similar to that of a report card on a guardian's refrigerator.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t have that at home, so that was just heartbreaking to me seeing the smile on his face,” Newman said. “It’s amazing the difference we can make with just the simple things that we can do.”
In honor of 85 years serving the children of Muncie, BGC set a goal to raise $85,000. This was the first time in the last 10 to 15 years that a fundraising goal has been set for BGC of Muncie.
As of Jan. 28, BGC of Muncie has raised $56,556.45, thanks to fundraising events, including the Great Futures Breakfast for Dinner Jan. 24.
“The reason that we [set a goal] is [because that’s] what we talk to kids about. The first thing in life is to set a goal and figuring out how to obtain that goal. So that's what we've done here,” Newman said.
Families are currently charged $15 a child per year, but the actual cost per child annually is $4,000. The $15 can even be out of some families’ price ranges, so the fundraised money goes to cover the gap between scholarships and fees.
Newman said he believes the volunteers who work daily at the BGC of Muncie are there because they want to help children and their families. He also said he has the ability to distinguish which daily volunteers are here for which children.
“I think the biggest message that we try to send our kids is that they are not in this alone,” Newman said. “Because being a child can feel lonely, and especially when you’re surrounded by other people, it still feels lonely.”