Boys and Girls Club looks ahead

PARKERSBURG – With a half-century of work behind it, the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg is looking forward to the next half-century after wrapping up its 50th anniversary celebration Saturday.

“Things went fantastically for our celebration,” said executive director Ben Shuman. “We had a great response from the community to help us remember the last 50 years and look ahead to the next 50 years.”

The Saturday event brought between nearly 100 people to the club’s 1200 Mary St. facility for several activities that included a cookout lunch, carnival and games.

“We had old-time carnival games and other older games that kids have played at the club throughout its history,” Shuman said.

The games included tossing ping pong balls into cups of water for prizes as well as board and tables games that have fallen out of popularity with the rise of video and computer games.

“Really, we used our 50th anniversary as a way to get the kids excited about history,” Shuman added.

With the local club’s past as the catalyst, Shuman said they decided to teach the children about not just the club, but the importance of knowing all history.

“The kids know what (the Boys and Girls Club) now has, but they don’t know how to appreciate it without learning about what it took to get to where we are,” he said. “We want to make sure our history doesn’t get lost.”

Shuman said with its history, the club has been able to do what many other organizations have not been able to – remain relevant as times change.

“It is a challenge to remain relevant because the longer an organization exists, it is easy to get set in your ways and not change as the world and community changes around you,” he said. “Right now, things are changing very fast and we really need to plan for the future.”

Those plans, Shuman added, include the need to be forward-thinking and open to trying new and different things.

“Our most important goal is to be able to open our kids’ eyes and help them figure out what they need to do to get what they want out of their future,” he said. “We work closely with each kid to get to know them and help them reach their goals, which are our goals.”

The Parkersburg club serves roughly 120 children up to more than 160 between the ages of 7 and 18 every day.

The club’s goals for its members is to help them graduate from high school with a plan for the future; being healthy, having access to good nutrition and knowing how to live a healthy lifestyle; and encouraging character building and good citizenship.

“It is no longer enough for kids to graduate,” Shuman said. “They now need to have a life plan in place before they even get to that point and we are here to get them there.”

The Saturday event was open to the public as opposed to a private celebration with club members and area officials on Friday night.