Lincoln County resident and Department of Social Services worker Shaun Newton is heading the effort to bring a Boys & Girls Club program to Lincoln County.
Newton knows first-hand the benefits of such an organization after spending six years of his childhood at the Boys and Girls Club facility in Brunswick, Ga.
He said he needed a place away from his abusive home where he could find stability and encouragement to come out of his shell and just â€œbe free and be a child.â€
â€œI had a very hard
childhood,â€ Newton said.
â€œThe club was my outlet.â€
After Newton was injured toward the end of a six-year stint in the United States Marine Corps, he retired and moved in March 2008 to Lincoln County, where he immediately noticed a need for a youth hangout. In his opinion, the streets were the only place for children to gather.
â€œThatâ€™s why they get into trouble,â€ he said, â€œbecause thereâ€™s nothing for them to do.â€
He said God immediately put it on his heart to do something positive for the local youth.
Newton added that with the country being at the forefront of the industrialized civilization, society has quickly become filled with all kinds of â€œinstant gratificationâ€ such as video games and other pleasures that prevent children from playing outside.
â€œThatâ€™s why the USA is in first place in childhood obesity,â€ he said.
Newton said he believes there are many benefits to the Boys & Girls Club organization, which isnâ€™t just a place where children participate in recreational activities but also educational and skill-building exercises that aid in establishing a â€œfirm foundationâ€ for life and teach children to reach beyond their dreams.
â€œIf you can think of it, you can achieve higher,â€ he said.
Several of the skills that are taught, including home economics, are subjects no longer a part of the school system. â€œWe teach how to sew and tie ties,â€ Newton said. â€œEverything â€¦ is child enrichment, trying to help mold the child.â€
The organization provides programs for children ages 6 to 17 including Power Hour, a time immediately following studentsâ€™ arrival when homework is completed and academics are enforced.
â€œThey do so much better when they know someone expects them to do things,â€ Newton said.
He also pointed out that by allowing children to complete their homework at the club, parents can spend more quality time with them in the evening and experience a â€œmore loving environmentâ€ at home.
Additional prevention programs focused on reducing teen pregnancy, gang involvement and alcohol and drug abuse include Street Smarts, Teen Court, Think Smart and Smart Girls.
Also, Los Amigos is a Latino outreach program for Spanish-speaking children who attend the club. The program provides math computations and English-based tutoring, allowing children to practice both writing and speaking the language.
According to a Boys & Girls Club press release, â€œTutoring in English helps youth grasp complex concepts and socialization with English-speaking youthâ€ and â€œinstills a sense of belonging, usefulness, influence and competence.â€
Sheriff David Carpenter, one of 10 club advisory board members, agreed with Newton that the organization is both valuable and constructive for those who attend.
â€œIt offers the opportunity for afternoon activitiesâ€¦and a time to make sure homework is completed and some general supervision where they (children) might not be receiving it,â€ he said.
Additional advisory board members include a number of area pastors as well as Superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle, Lincolnton Mayor John Gilleland, Ola Mae Foster, president of the countyâ€™s Coalition of Churches and Sherry Reinhardt, Coalition Against Child Abuse director, among others.
Despite the many local officials whoâ€™ve become involved with the establishment of a Lincoln County Boys and Girls Club unit, Newton noted that that effort is going to require aid from all residents.
â€œIt takes the entire community to change childrenâ€™s lives,â€ he said.
For the last two years, the Lincoln County branch has been operating under the umbrella of the Greater Gaston branch and currently boasts between 30 and 60 children and three to five employees. However, Newton said additional volunteers are needed to donate a couple hours daily or weekly to the organization. â€œVolunteers make the club run,â€ he said.
Club officials and committee members are currently in negotiations and seeking grants and funding from several large-scale organizations including the Panthers, Bobcats, Bi-Lo, Belks and the Tempkin Foundation.
In addition, starting mid-January, individuals will be able to purchase a Boys & Girls Club card at surrounding Bi-Lo stores. The card will donate 4-percent of each purchase to the Lincoln County Boys & Girls Club unit.
â€œMy passion is children,â€ Newton said. â€œI want to help be the bridge between children and the resources to help them accomplish what they want.â€ Newton said that two major losses occur when adults fail to help children open the door to their dreams.
â€œTheyâ€™ve lost that dream, and in turn, weâ€™ve lost that child,â€ he said.
For more information on how to volunteer, make a donation or obtain a Boys & Girls Club card, contact Shaun Newton at (704) 240-7525.
â€œYou are more than what youâ€™re going through right now,â€ Newton said.