The Valdosta Daily Times
When longtime Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta Chief Professional Officer Robert Soper officially retires on June 1, his successor will already be in place, ready to take the reins of the organization.
Soper will stay on part-time in a consulting role through the end of 2013, at which time he will have completed 36 years of service to the local club.
Jim Wink is the incoming CPO, and he is already working with Soper to ensure a smooth transition. Wink has worked with Boys and Girls Clubs in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, most recently in Columbus, and has years of experience to bring to the position.
“I am very honored to be chosen to lead this club. It has a positive image across the country and is a very special place,” said Wink.
“My goal is to reach every child in Lowndes County and the immediate area to show them we have something we can offer them,” he said.
Currently, the center serves approximately 2,500 children annually through its various programs, including 220 a day at the Toombs facility, and 110 in the Toombs Teen Center. That number will increase significantly once
school is out.
Soper said the target audience for the BGC is at-risk youth who need help with behavior issues and academics.
“By participating here, it extends their learning day, and it gets kids back on track and keeps others from sliding off track,” he said.
The emphasis in recent years at the Boys and Girls Club has shifted significantly towards academics. Soper proudly announced that every senior attending the club in Lowndes and Brooks counties will graduate this year, on time, with a plan for the future that involves technical school or college.
“We have one academic hour a day and one hour for homework, but we manage to work in fun time, too. It can’t be just like school or they would tune us out, so there has to be some fun in there to keep their interest,” said Soper. “They’re still learning, but without being ‘taught.’”
Cathy Parker, who joined the BGC last year as director of development, said the programs have helped encourage the children to go to school every day.
“They ride the bus from school to here, so if they don’t go to school, they can’t come here, so we’ve seen a tremendous improvement in their school attendance,” she said.
Parker has also started a program to get parents more involved, and she conducts facility tours on a regular basis for community leaders as well.
Soper said the BGC will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2014, and Wink said they are putting plans in place to develop an alumni association.
“We think it would really benefit our members and would bring them back into the club,” he said.
Soper looks forward to his retirement and Wink is excited about his new future in Valdosta.
“Having a new set of eyes will make the club even better and continue another 70 years,” said Soper. “We all want to live in a productive community where children are ready for society when they graduate, with a plan for the future that also involves getting a job.
“We are trying to do our part to support the entire community.”