Selma native Constance Reese speaks to local elected and business leaders about bringing the Boys and Girls Club to Selma and Dallas County. Reece, who worked 28 years in the federal prison system, is one of the leading proponents of bringing the clubs to the area as a means of keeping young people out of trouble. -- Robert Hudson

A club for the youth

Published 12:31am Thursday, March 1, 2012

Public officials and local businesses gathered at the St. James Hotel to hear a possible solution to getting local youth off the streets and onto a path to a better future — a potential Boys and Girls Club.

Constance Reece, who was born and raised in Selma before leaving to go to college, has come back as one of the key proponents of a Boys and Girls Club in Selma after working 28 years in the federal prison system, including being an associate warden or a warden for the last 12 years.

Reece said the purpose of the meeting was to inform those in attendance about how the Boys and Girls Club helps get children on a positive path.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to bring together the business community to inform them of our need for a Boys and Girls Club and to get their thoughts and answer any questions they may have about the establishment of a Boys and Girls Club,” Reece said. “We were able to do that … we had over 40 people here from the business community and local leaders.”

Clyde McGuire, Regional Service Director for the Boys and Girls Club of America/Southeast, spoke to city officials about how the clubs help children and the cities they live in.

“In areas with Boys and Girls Clubs, we’ve seen juvenile crime reduced by as much as 30 percent,” McGuire said.

McGuire added the Boys and Girls Club “builds good citizens and offers fun with a purpose.”

“It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design,” McGuire said.

McGuire said it generally takes about $50,000 to establish a Boys and Girls Club.

Selma Mayor George Evans supports bringing a Boys and Girls Club to Selma because it could help deal with a number of problems facing Selma’s youths.

“We know what the crime rate is in terms of juveniles in our city,” Evans said. “Teen pregnancy, obesity and all of these things will be covered in a Boys and Girls Club. I’m just really excited about what can happen once everyone gets on board and how we can change the vision of our city when it comes to crime, and save some lives of young people who could be killed or on drugs. This is a way to bring it to a halt.”

Reece said the next step to forming a Boys and Girls Club in Selma will be to establish a board of directors.

“We’d establish a board of directors because, as Mr. McGuire indicated, that group will make the decisions about what will happen in this club and how it will be organized and developed, so that is our next step,” Reece said. “We’re also going to go to the community to get a community assessment to look at what are the needs of the young people in this city, so that we can address those needs.”

Reece said the hope is to set up future meetings to get the community involved.

“We need the community to not only serve as volunteers, but we’ll be looking for people who will actually work for the Boys and Girls Club, who’ll actually be employed by the Boys and Girls Club,” Reese said.

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