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Merger will help clubs carry out mission, officials said

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Sydney Sheppard, 8, right, works on her homework at the North Greenville Boys and Girls Club on Sept. 13, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kirk Dominick remembers when the Boys’ Club of Pitt County was simply a recreational facility: a place where troubled kids, himself included, gathered for what he described as a “swim and gym.”

Things have changed a lot since 1969, the year the club was founded in Greenville, and Dominick, now the interim CEO, has played a key role in the organization’s transformation — most recently overseeing a merger that has expanded the club’s footprint in eastern North Carolina under the Boys & Girls Clubs of America umbrella.

The July 1 merger between the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coastal Carolina has broadened the nonprofit’s reach to 16 club locations and about 3,500 children and teens, Dominick said. Pitt, Lenoir, Beaufort, Greene, Martin, Carteret and Craven counties will now fall under the Coastal Plain name. 

The expansion will help the clubs reach even more youngsters with low-cost after-school programing focused on academic success, character building and healthy lifestyles, Dominick said.

“We have already seen the benefits of operating as one, in terms of a more consistent delivery of programs, more community awareness; obviously we have a broader reach,” said Dominick. “It’s already opened the doors to funding sources and community partnerships that we probably wouldn’t have been able to access as two separate organizations.”

Dominick was brought in as the interim CEO after advising the club during the merging process. He replaces Jaime Cooper, who left to accept a job in Charleston, S.C. 

He hopes that consolidation will mean growth for the club in both its day-to-day and financial reach. Greenville does not offer a large pool of corporations to support nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club. So the organization also must rely on small businesses and private donors to step forward.

The clubs currently bring in about $4.5 million in private funds in addition to some government funding, he said. Bringing in the five clubs in Carteret and Craven give the Coastal Plain group a chance to tap into the New Bern, Morehead City, Havelock and Beaufort nonprofit markets.

“The challenge with that is, that takes a lot of effort,” Dominick said of fundraising. “We have thousands of folks that are making contributions to our clubs every year. For us to maintain that connection with those individuals, takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of manpower.”

Jill Camnitz, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain board chairwoman, said board members for the clubs of Coastal Carolina first brought up the idea of a merger last fall. With four members from each organization’s board manning the merger committee, a process that lasted nearly six months yielded a unanimous decision to merge, which became official on July 1.

“We checked all the financials, Kirk interviewed staff members on both sides, he looked at personnel policies, bylaws, just trying to make sure there wasn’t anything that was a red flag or a difference that was going to be difficult to overcome,” Camnitz said. “We found that there was much more in common than differences.”

The move is the latest changes for what once was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County. The organization, which operated five units locally, became the The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain in 2015 after it assumed responsibility for the Lenoir County club in 2010, merged with Beaufort County in 2013 and started new clubs in Greene and Martin counties.

At the club level, Camnitz and Dominick both said that the goal is to change as little as possible in the short term.

“We said all along we felt strongly that at least for this first year, our goal is to almost not have any affect on the clubs,” Camnitz said. “We want to keep as much in place as possible, to have our unit directors to do the same thing they’ve been doing.”

While Dominick said there is a need to have a consistent approach throughout the clubs in the organization, he said there are different challenges in the different communities. The individual counties will depend on local advisory boards, made up of community and business leaders, to determine what needs each has, based on what is happening locally. In total, Dominick estimates there are 125-150 people on the local advisory boards.

“There may be needs in Martin County that don’t necessarily exist as strongly in Greene County or Pitt County, so one of the challenges will be keeping that local identity, that local buy-in, and to me that’s where the strength of the staff in these local clubs and the engagement of these local advisory boards will be critical to help inform us so that we’re not making decisions from a top down,” Dominick said.

Dominick estimates that about 22,000 kids are living in poverty throughout the seven counties that the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain now serves. He said the organization is just scratching the surface because the growing need for troubled youth to find a safe haven is greater now than it has ever been.

“What holds true is kids walk through our doors and there are people there that care about them,” he said. “And there are people there that are willing to invest in their future.”

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com and 329-9567.

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