Councilman Hardin working to bring Boys and Girls Club to Salisbury

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 8, 2017

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY – City Councilman Kenny Hardin is working again to bring a Boys and Girls Club to the area.

Hardin said he had tried before to bring the club here but was met with opposition. The nonprofit organization provides programs for children that cover education and career, character and leadership, health and life skills, arts and sports, and fitness and recreation.

This time, he has refocused and reorganized, choosing to form a committee to develop the framework of the program before anything else. He said cultural enrichment, athletics and education assistance will be the main focuses of the program and that it will target children from third to 12th grades.

Hardin and the committee want the programs to be different from what may already be offered in the community. For example, the athletics portion may include boxing and ballet.

“Everybody does basketball, so we want to do things a little differently,” he said.

They hope to offer children field trips to museums and places such as Washington, as well as bring in speakers to share life lessons and examples. They also hope to have trade certifications available and a financial literacy program.

“We’ve got a lot of things that we want to do,” Hardin said.

When Hardin tried before to bring the club here, he focused on marketing first instead of a framework, he said.

“I didn’t give up on it. It was just that I needed to take a different approach,” he said.

Hardin said there were some who did not support his efforts, including someone who went before the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and asked it to not lease space for the club in West End Plaza.

During his first try, Hardin met with YMCA Director Richard Reinholtz. He said Reinholtz asked him to add the club under the Y, but Hardin did not want to do that. He said he does not discount the work the Y is doing but that even with financial assistance, not all families can afford to involve their children in the YMCA.

Jamie Morgan, CEO of the YMCA of Rowan County, said the organization did not suggest that the program be add to the Y but that it was and still is open to collaboration.

The three focuses of the YMCA are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Morgan said the Y is willing to be involved with any opportunity that is trying to better serve the children in the community.

“We are always willing to come to the table,” he said.

Morgan also said the organization does not turn anyone away because they cannot pay. The Y is an agency of the United Way, which helps provide the funds needed to give kids scholarships for YMCA membership. An application process helps make sure those who receive financial assistance truly need it, Morgan said. The funds are awarded on a sliding scale based on need, so some may have their fees totally covered and others may get partial coverage.

Hardin said a vice president of the Rowan County United Way said the organization would not offer any financial assistance for the Boys and Girls Clubs initiative.

Bob Lippard, executive director of the United Way, said in an email that youth and family programming is already provided through the YMCA, Boy Scouts, Communities in Schools, Youth Services Bureau and Families First. Lippard said his organization “does not support duplication of services.”

“We encourage the community to work in partnership with existing agencies in order to avoid duplication,” he wrote.

Lippard said funding for the agencies the United Way supports was reduced this year and the organization had to deny admission of an agency last year because of a lack of funding.

Hardin said he has received a lot of support from business and philanthropic individuals. Community members have offered to help in any way they could, Hardin said.

He said he had a good conversation with Lynn Moody, superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

“I appreciate Kenny Hardin and others in our community who see a need and take action,” Moody said in a statement. “Many of our students need a safe place after school to continue to learn and grow. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America have a long history of providing leadership opportunities and teaching life skills. I certainly support his efforts to bring this opportunity into Rowan County.”

He also received support from retired basketball player Bobby Jackson.

Hardin said all of the support tells him he is going in the right direction.

“That shows me we’re on the right track,” he said.

Hardin said he has confidence in his committee, which includes Dennis L. Rivers, Bruce Titus, Chris Sifford, Janine Evans, DeCarlo Duling, Shawn Henderson and Steve Clark. Each of them has different talents to bring to the table, and all are excited about the cause, he said.

Hardin said he does not want Salisbury’s chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs to be a place where kids just hang out. He wants to make sure the program helps make the children’s lives better with measurable outcomes.

He has spoken with representatives of the Boys and Girls Clubs regional office and the South Carolina office, as well as the executive director of Concord’s chapter. Hardin said he had plans to meet with the Concord executive director on Friday.

Hardin said he would like to get a property that is accessible to the East and West End neighborhoods. He wants to have the programming in place by June and the building secured by September or October.

He said there are a lot of people in the community who are counting on him and his committee to make this happen.

“And there are a lot of kids who need this,” he said, “and that’s the important thing.”

Starting a Boys and Girls Club was a campaign promise Hardin made.

“We can’t wait for the city, we can’t wait for the (police) chief, we can’t wait for anybody else,” Hardin said. “We have to do it ourselves.”

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.