Notable in the membership of the first Board of Directors was the following list of prominent and influential Ocalans:
Dr. H.L. Harrell, Sr. Kenneth C. Alvarez R.N. “Bert” Dosh
L. Reid Jackson, Jr. Newton Perry Ruth Fohl
Dr. James B. Stapleton John Christoff Lura Hollandsworth
Dr. Richard C. Cumming Mary Moses Shashy Henry M. Dennis, Jr.
Curtis Gombar Mrs. S.P. Burton Dr. N. William Ritz
G. Don Ritter
Over the first 5-6 years, these members were joined by:
W.M. Palmer, Sr. Clarence M. Camp, II James S. Weaver
Carlyle Ausley, Jr. Gen. Robert A. Berman Ralph Bradford
Herbert Hickox B.W. Wesley Gerald Noland
Alyce McPherson George F. Mangan W.C. “Red” Vines
Bruce Mozert Hubert Dossey
There were others equally important, but unnamed, who gave of themselves and their resources to assure the Club’s growth. Dr. Richard Cumming served as the first President of the Board of Directors and James E. “Jim” Walker was brought in from the Boys Club of Sylacauga, Alabama, to provide professional leadership as Executive Director, beginning September 1, 1967.
The former Women’s Club building at 120 NE Tuscawilla Avenue was purchased and renovated to serve as the Club quarters. The doors were opened to the boy members on October 23, 1967, and a total of 220 boys were enrolled during the first year.
George O. Zane was elected to serve as President in 1968-69. William C. Hill became our third President for the years of 1970-71, and it was during his term that our present site was purchased with the help of a generous donation from Mr. Mabel Damsel. The Gymnasium was constructed at a cost of approximately $40,000 and equipment and boys were moved into it in April, 1971. Boy membership had then grown to some 600 and the operating budget was up from $16,500 in 1968 to $29,250 in 1971.
Funds for the operation of the Club were raised in their entirety by the Board of Directors until 1971, when a grant of $7,500 was given to us by the United Way of Marion County. The Boys Club became a full member agency of the United Way in 1972 as we were approved for $10,000 toward our budgeted expenses for that year. C. Herbert Hickox was the President of the Club Board of Directors in 1972-73. United Way funding for our programs rose to $14,250 in 1973, $17,000 in 1974: dropped back to $15,000 in 1975, and fell off to $13,000 in 1976. During this time, the operating budget had steadily increased from $31,500 in 1972 to a budget of $66,000 in 1976.
The beginnings of the Club were rocky at best. The relationship with United Way was an on-again/off-again affair for years. The Boys Club of Marion County has weathered many storms over the years. The Board of Directors has always managed to come through for the Club and as a result the Club has offered continuous service to youth for over 34 years.
The Club underwent a major change in 1989 when girls were added to the roster as members of the Club. The name was changed in 1989 to reflect our clients being served. We became the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County, Inc. on November 1, 1989. The same year we opened our first extension club at Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School. The expansion was funded in part by the Community Development Block Grant Program. The program ran for six years before being closed.
In 1990, the mortage note for the facility located at 642 N.E. 20th Street was paid off and put to rest. In 1992, the Club underwent major renovation. The front lobby area was enlarged to provide additional office space and to give better control of the entrance and exiting of the members and visitors.
In 1993, our organization qualified as “Outreach Partners” for the first time in our national organization of Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Our new Executive Director Jerry Neal, who had taken the reins from Jim Walker in 1990, attended the National Conference held in Boston, Mass., and won a brand new 17 passenger van. Thus a dream of our own van for transporting members, as promoted by the late Bob Schwalb, was realized. His widow was present to join in the happy occasion.
Jerry Neal resigned in April 1995 as the second Executive Director of our organization. A nationwide search was made to find a qualified replacement. The Board hired Darrell Edwards from Beaufort, South Carolina to take over as our new Chief Professional Officer. Darrell has an extended background with Boys and Girls Clubs having joined at the age of 5 and working at the Club from the age of 12. Darrell has been in Kingsport Tennessee, Jackson Mississippi, Leesburg Florida, and Beaufort/Hilton Head Island South Carolina. 1996 marks Darrell’s 20th year as a Certified Professional Boys and Girls Club worker.
Plans for future growth are underway and a major development program will begin in January 1997.