VALDOSTA — As the Boys and Girls Club celebrates 100 years of service nationally, the local organization conducted its 60th Annual Dinner Meeting Tuesday to recognize local individuals who help to improve the lives of America’s youth, beginning here at home.

“In 1944, three men met and formed the Boys and Girls Club we now know,” said chief professional officer Robert Soper. “That was 63 years ago yesterday, so what a befitting celebration.”

Serving nearly 5,000 youth locally, the Boys and Girls Club has long evolved from that first Troup Street facility, as youth attend clubs on Toombs Street, the Lake Laurie Unit and two club facilities in Brooks County.

Several board members and club administrators were honored Tuesday for their roles in continuing the standing mission, to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential.

Mike Godwin and Laura Perlman were honored with the Man and Woman of the Year Awards, and both shared their gratitude for the recognition, while also thanking those who help to keep the organization successful.

“This is a great honor for me, but there are so many here who are worthy of this award,” said Godwin. “The one thing I’ve really learned is how committed and passionate the volunteers and staff are to making a difference in the lives of these youth. All throughout, we see people who have stayed along to make an difference and be an example. I’m more interested in the people who are having a direct impact in the lives of these youth.”

Accepting her award, Perlman said,” I became involved because of my father, and in the last year I’ve been more involved and it’s made a big difference in my own life.”

“Going to the clubs and seeing all they do, it touches your heart, and it’s an honor to be a part of this great organization,” said Perlman.

Prentice Taylor and Greg Powell were presented with 2007 Service to Youth Awards, for more than a decade of work and service with the Toombs Street and Lake Laurie Units. Both men serve on a number of service and development committees with the organization, which work to develop the facilities and programing opportunities to keep youth involved.

The Valdosta Rotary Club was recognized for its continued support of the Boys and Girls Club over the years, providing voluntary assistance to help the clubs meet building and upkeep needs, dating back more than 50 years.

“Shortly after the Boys and Girls Club was established in 1944, the Valdosta Rotary Club began to support, and has supported for quite some time. They’re the reason we’re here today,” said Soper.

Joe Paoletti accepted the Extra Mile Award on behalf of the Rotary Club.

For years, William Southall has encouraged active lifestyles and health among youth while coaching through the Lake Laurie Unit sports athletic program. Southall was honored Tuesday with the Extra Mile award for continuing his commitment, and “never outgrowing the club, even though a lot of the kids he coached all ended up outgrowing him,” said athletic director, Jonathan Dickey.

Receiving the 2007 Old Reliable Award for his work to implement the vision and plans of the board, Bruce Edwards, director of operations and special initiatives, shared his history and heritage with Boys and Girls Club.

“I was affiliated with the club even before I realized it,” Edwards said. “My father was in Vietnam in the late 1970s when we moved back to Valdosta. Then, little black kids would get in the streets to play football and we’d stop every time a car would come through. I asked them, ‘Why are we playing in the streets when there’s a perfectly good field around the corner,’ and they all looked at me like I was crazy.”

Edwards said that he and his friends moved on to play on the Boys and Girls Club field that day, but were asked to leave because the times still called for segregation. Years later, he is grateful to be a leader in a unified organization, open to all youth and all adults.

“Coming from a military upbringing, I had never experienced that, so I wrote my dad and he said that when he came back from Vietnam, he’d do something about it,” Edwards said. “My father came back to Valdosta, and he ended up becoming the first African American coach at the Boys and Girls Club, and years later, here I am.”

Raymond Copeland proudly accepted the 2007 Youth of the Year Award for his work at the Toombs Street Unit and encouraged attendants to maintain a winning spirit, by always doing more than what is required and remaining optimistic despite the challenges of life.

Each day the Boys and Girls Club continues to reach into this community, extending program offerings and activities to area youth to keep them motivated and focused on becoming positive adults. As the organization looks to this new year, board and committee members join administrators and unit directors, in developing new initiatives and outreach programs.

React to this story:



Trending Video

Recommended for you