Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
Nicolas Josephs, left, and Antoino Hardge work on their art projects at the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy and Girls Club.
Each afternoon, about 240 students, mostly from Rockdale County, stream in through the doors of the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy & Girls Club. They do their homework, have a healthy snack and join in activities, like playing math games on the computer, making art projects or playing basketball.
Of the roughly 700 children between the ages of 6 and 18 registered with the club, 68 percent live in economically disadvantaged homes and 62 percent are children of single parents.
“The Club is just a place where the kids are equipped with the skills to thrive, whether it’s college, if they choose, or work,” said Louise Blackman, a member of the board of the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy & Girls Club. “The Club is able, through the programs they offer, to help develop the character of the youth that go there.”
Local residents will have an opportunity to make their own contribution to the future of the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy & Girls Club members when the club hosts its annual Super Saturday Night fundraiser.
The event, set for 7 p.m. June 2 at the Georgia International Horse Park Carriage Room, will be a casino-themed evening complete with roulette wheels, craps tables and black jack, a disc jockey inside, live musical entertainment outside, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.
Those attending are given a certain amount of chips (play money) to spend on the games and the person with the most amount of chips at the end of the evening wins a prize. There are also silent auction items such as gift certificates to restaurants and entertainment venues.
Tickets are $40 and proceeds benefit the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy & Girls Club. To purchase tickets, visit the club at 1015 O’Kelly St. or visit www.bgcma.org/event/251 or buy them at the door.
Blackman said last year’s Super Saturday Night casino event raised more than $52,000 and the goal for this year is $60,000.
“People had a lot of fun last year, so we’re hoping to draw even more people to the event this year,” Blackman said.
A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boy & Girls Club Executive Director Terrence Artis said that club programs address the whole child, including aspects such as education, character, leadership, fitness, community service and healthy lifestyle choices, including eating well. There also an array of clubs kids can join such as dance, pen pal, comic book, reporter, chess and leadership clubs.
The Boys & Girls Club is open after school from 2 to 6 p.m., with the teen center staying open until 8 p.m. The club is available during winter and spring breaks and offers a summer program from June 4 to July 28, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I encourage anyone to set up an appointment and come by and see some of the great things we’re doing here,” said Artis, who worked at the Rockdale club from August 2009 to August 2011, then left to be interim program director for the Nocross club and returned to Rockdale in April.
“I’m excited to be back,” Artis said.
Artis said that while club membership is only $35 per child, the cost to the center to service a child is $4,200. He looks forward to a successful Super Saturday Night.
“(I hope the public decides to) give to a program where we’re trying to ... put out young positive people,” Artis said.