Optimists hope to revive Boys and Girls Club

Published 11:03 am Friday, March 8, 2024

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The Optimist Club of LaGrange is hoping to get the Boys and Girls Club to return to Troup County.

Troup County previously had Boys and Girls Clubs established in both LaGrange and Hogansville. Optimist Club President Ralph Howard noted several events that led to the club’s departure.

Howard said the club was thriving and expanding under former local club leader Bart McFadden but the national Boys and Girls Club moved him to Knoxville, Tennessee.

“They had 13 clubs. Now they have 21 clubs, so he was a real mover and shaker,” Howard said.

Unfortunately, McFadden’s replacement, Mekos Denson, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after he started and never really settled down. He ended up moving back home to Las Vegas, Howard said.

“We had local people attempting to maintain the club but they didn’t have the deep experience McFadden or Denson had,” Howard said. “The club kind of floundered over the next 10 years and in March of 2022 Boys and Girls Club of America pulled the charter, so we do not have a [local] Boys and Girls Club.”

Howard said local organizations like the LaGrange Housing Authority and others are doing their best to fill in for the loss of the Boys and Girls Club, but the Optimists would like to get it back.

“We were very upset when we learned that the charter had been pulled so we decided to initiate an effort to try to get the Boys and Girls Club back into our area,” Howard said.

The local Optimist club has since discussed the issue with Optimists International and they have agreed to provide a small grant to kickstart their efforts to garner community support for the Boys and Girls Club’s return.

“The word from the Boys and Girls Club of America is that they cannot consider coming back to LaGrange unless there is broad community support,” Howard said. “That’s what the Optimist Club is attempting to engender.”

Howard said that other local service clubs, the Kiwanis, Lions, Rotarians, and 100 Black Men have all signed on with the effort to say the Boys and Girls Club needs to come back.

“We have gotten a repertoire going with the Boys and Girls Club of America with their senior vice president in charge of public affairs, so we’ve kind of got it going. We’ve got a long way to go but we are on the right trend,” Howard said.