• Boys and Girls of the Plateau staff members include, from left, Executive Director Josh Helms, Laura Gillespie-Brown and Lori Quinn. (Photo by Dan Brown.)
    Boys and Girls of the Plateau staff members include, from left, Executive Director Josh Helms, Laura Gillespie-Brown and Lori Quinn. (Photo by Dan Brown.)

Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau begins its fifth year

By Dan Brown / Staff

CASHIERS -- The Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau begins its fifth year of operations in Cashiers and southern Jackson County this month, marking the start of its fifth anniversary milestone with the Baldaroo musical and fireworks celebration Sept. 15 at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire.

For Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Josh Helms, the upcoming anniversary serves as an opportunity to continue the organization’s program in impacting the 175 local young people who are members here.

“We are ready to begin Phase Two of our programs in enabling all young people, especially those who need us most to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens,” Helms said, citing the club mission statement, and in his third year as executive director. “We have been successful in working with early elementary kids in our first four years and these students are about to enter the middle school stage, and if we’re going to lose them, that’s when we lose them.”

 

Early influence important

The phase premise is a simple concept, Helms said.

“Phase one involved the younger kids, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and incorporating them into the culture Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “If we don’t do that when they’re younger, we won’t retain them once they reach middle school age, which is Phase Two.

Phase Two includes students in their middle school years and continues the Boys and Girls Club culture that began in their elementary years.

“Our first group of young people is at the middle school level, Helms said. “Any habits high school kids act upon, they learn during middle school.”

With Phase Three continuing the program through the students’ high school years, Helms said they did have two high school aged students attending this year, and graduated one last year.

“As these kids grow up, we hope to grow up with them,” he said.

 

Fulfilling needs

While 175 members strong, Helm said not all members come at once to the Boys and Girls Club offices located at 42 Community Place in Cashiers behind the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department building.

“We’re tight on space and we had 112 kids here each day this week,” he said. “When the weather is warm and nice, more kids show up, and this week it’s been warm and nice.”

On average, about 75 member kids show up on a daily basis for their after-school programs, Helms said. 

BGCP was originally created to fill a critical need for afterschool youth development in the Cashiers, Jackson County and Highlands areas.

The BGCP offers students offer daily access to a broad range of programs which are all focused in some way on the three Priority Outcome Areas: academic success, healthy and active lifestyles, and good character and leadership.

 

A labor of love

​According to its website, the Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau was born out of a casual conversation between tennis great Andy Roddick and the late William McKee in 2012. Roddick, McKee and many others collaborated both to create the Mountain Challenge Tennis Exhibition as a fundraiser, and also a steering committee which determined that the BGCA model was a good fit for addressing community need.

Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau Board Member Cheryl Benitez said bringing the Boys and Girls Club to the area was a labor of love.

“The timing was perfect and the most glaring need in the area was an after-school program,” she said. “We did our research and found the Boys and Girls Club model was exactly what we needed here.”

While the initial plan didn’t include opening a Boys and Girls Club in Cashiers until 2015, Helms said, the financial generosity of the club’s Founders Circle and the hard work of many community volunteers helped open its doors a year earlier, on Sept. 15, 2014, a full year ahead of schedule.

“It was meant to be, and a labor of love,” Benitez said.

 

Not just a job

Staff members see their work here as a calling, not a job.

Lori Quinn said her work at the Boys and Girls Club was a way to give back to the community.

“I do love serving the children and watching them grow through the years,” she said.

Laura Gillespie-Brown said it was gratifying to see how they made a difference in kids’ lives.

“I enjoy seeing their excitement when they arrive each day,” she said. “And the fun they have with the extra-curricular activities and sports activities.”

Operations Manager Vivian Weatherby said her work with the Boys and Girls Club was rewarding and important.

“We’re here because we believe in it, and we believe in what we’re doing.”

 

Baldaroo Music Festival

The third annual Baldaroo Family Music Festival is scheduled for Sept. 15, rain or shine on the shore of Fairfield Lake at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire.

“We call that area the Inn Site as that’s where the old Fairfield Inn used to stand,” Helms said.

Festivities begin at 5 p.m. with musical acts Jay Drummonds, Hurricane Creek and Kurt Thomas scheduled to perform leading up to the fireworks display, which begins around at 9 p.m.

“They are pretty punctual about when the fireworks show begins seeing how the days are getting shorter,” Helms said.

Hillside tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for students and $10 for ages 6-12.

Children younger than 6 get in free.

VIP Seating is $75. Onsite parking passes are available for $50.

Free shuttle service is available on the night of the event.

“There is great signage regarding the shuttle service,” Benitez said. “The shuttle is free and will take you right up to the event.”

Baldaroo tickets are also available at the Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce, or by calling 828-743-2775.

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