Just in time for the start of the new school year, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis has announced a change in executive leadership, as chief financial officer Larry Pennington has been chosen as acting CEO on an interim basis. He replaces Vincent Borello, who resigned as president and CEO to pursue other opportunities.
“Most importantly, there will be no change in how we serve the kids at the clubs. That is our top priority,” said Pennington, who joined the organization 3.5 years ago as the interim CFO. “My agenda is to make sure the community understands that although we’ve had a loss in leadership that there is a management team in place that’s going to continue to lead in the same manner as in years past.”
The clubs serve more than 4,000 members across the city at six locations and offer mentoring, tutoring, and computer labs, as well as a technical training center, which boasts a 100 percent job placement rate.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs are vitally important to our community. As you know, education is the key to the health of any city,” Pennington said. “We are all about after-school programming, with education in the core areas. Our goal is to graduate kids and help make them productive citizens.”
More than 1,000 teens have been gainfully employed through the clubs’ Job Ready Program over the past three years.
One of the first items on Pennington’s agenda will be the expansion of The Boys & Girls Clubs’ newest location in Oakhaven on Tchulahoma Road, which had a soft opening last December.
The expansion is part of $18.7 million in capital improvements planned over three phases.
“We are operating right now in temporary facilities that were part of a property we purchased in 2012. It is part of our capital campaign to expand and enlarge the facilities to better meet the needs of the community,” Pennington said. “Right now we are serving about 100 members, and it is all that the club can hold.”
The $7.5 million Phase I will include the Oakhaven clubhouse construction, new spray-ground water parks at two branches, new outdoor picnic pavilions at two branches, a KaBoom playground at the Samelson branch, and “Fun Haven” at the Bernal E. Smith Sr. branch that will include an outdoor picnic pavilion, a spray-ground water park and outdoor basketball courts.
Future phases are planned to include a new partnership site in Frayser, Northaven, Sheffield or Raleigh, along with the renovation of the Whitehaven clubhouse and construction of a new gymnasium.
“Right now, we are only limited by our resources, both staff and financial,” he said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the help of volunteers who help us on a daily basis. Some teachers come in to volunteer and mentor to help the kids with their struggles or help them in areas that they excel so they can excel even more.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs just wrapped up its third major fundraising event of the year this past weekend, with its annual Boys & Girls Club Tennis Invitational at The Racquet Club of Memphis. The clubs’ final major fundraiser this year, the Toy Bash, will take place Dec. 7 at Minglewood Hall.
Pennington is inspired by the activity he sees at the clubs.
“You spend one day there, and you see the change over time that occurs in the kids’ lives and the interaction they have with the staff. You see kids who might not have graduated that graduate. You see staff that knows they are making a difference in the community,” he said.
The Boys & Girls Clubs are open Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. to children ages 6 to 18. Club hours are designed to fit the new unified school system’s dismissal times in response to parent concerns about programs that would not start by the time their children get out of school. Memberships cost $10 a year, but no child is ever turned away.