By Kristi Parker Johnson
Harker Heights Herald
The City of Harker Heights will donate $50,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas if the proposed 2012-13 budget is approved in September.
The city contributed $40,000 to the organization last year. The same amount was initially included in the new proposed budget, but council members chose to raise it to $50,000 because of the positive impact they said the club has on middle school students.
"With everything I've heard from principals, it's a good thing," City Manager Steve Carpenter said. "That's a hard group to reach. The Boys & Girls Club really has a good history."
The Harker Heights clubs are located at Eastern Hills and Union Grove middle schools and serve students from those schools. The programs are free to all families and offer supervision, snacks, sports, activities like arts and crafts and step dancing, homework help and mentoring by paid, trained staff members, according to Francie Charles, resource development director for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas.
"I was visiting with a parent just last Friday, and she was just so excited because her son is going to be attending middle school," Charles said. "She works in Temple so she knows she won't have to worry about him after school."
The Central Texas chapter is affiliated and chartered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The clubs are open to all children age 6-18. The Harker Heights middle schools are closed during the summer but parents can take their children to Clements Teen Center in Killeen.
Karin Freeman, unit director at Union Grove, works at Clements during summer months. The mother of two grown children and a 4-year-old has been with the Boys & Girls Clubs for seven years and enjoys working with middle-school students.
"I'd rather work with this age group," Freeman said. "They get more involved. Last year we did Relay-for-Life, we did the Christmas parade, we did a lot of different stuff."
Marquis Demps, 14, attended the Union Grove club for three years and worked closely with Freeman as a junior-staff member.
"We have a 15-1 ratio of staff to kids at the school, so the junior staff helps us out," Freeman said. "(In return) they get volunteer hours."
Demps joined the Boys & Girls Club at age 7 and appreciates the program's ability to keep him and his friends busy.
"It's always fun to have activities to keep us going and doing stuff … (especially) the activities where you make posters for basketball games and the Christmas parades," he said.
Although he moves to New York with his father this week, Demps plans to join the Boys & Girls Club when he starts high school there this fall.
For more information about the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas, call (254) 699-5808 or go to www.bgctx.org.