Boys and Girls club provides home away from home

by Marlena Chertock, November 18, 2009

Program Director Xylda Gee tutors Josh, a fourth-grade student at the Boys and Girls Club. Photo by Lauren Ramsdell.

Several elementary and middle school children scribble away at their homework. Some shift in their seats, while others draw pictures on their papers instead of completing their math problems. After a few minutes of restfulness, one child cracks a joke and the entire room bursts out in laughter.

This is a typical Thursday afternoon for Xylda Gee, or as the kids call her, Mrs. Gee. Gee is the program director at the Burlington Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club. She is one of the three full-time staff members at the club.

The Boys and Girls Club has been around since the mid-1950s, Executive Director Sherri Henderson said. The building in Burlington was constructed in 1979.

The club acts as an after school care program for children in the community. Salvation Army buses pick up children from 11 elementary and middle schools in the surrounding area, Monday through Friday from 2:30 – 6 p.m. The club takes care of high school-age children as well, though it does not have a pickup program in place for them.

Gee has worked at the Boys and Girls Club for almost 15 years, long enough to have seen many of the children she works with grow up.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with children,” she said.

Gee said the best part of working at the club is getting to know the children, seeing them excel and “being a part of their lives as they grow up.”

“They’re so proud when they do good,” Gee said. “They want you to see that. Awards they win in school, they want you to be there for. Birthdays, they want you to come.”

Gee is a living paradigm of the club’s mission statement: “To inspire and enable all young people, especially those that need us the most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”

She said the children truly need the club and its members.

When the children have functions at their schools, Gee said many glance around with looks on their faces asking, “Where’s my grandma?”

“We try to remedy that kind of feeling,” Gee said. “We try to be there for the parents. I know what it’s like to be a working parent. There’s so much you can miss.”

An ad in the paper asking for help drew Gee’s attention to the club.

“I was a bookkeeper,” she said. “I don’t like sitting behind a desk.”

Gee said she needs to be on her toes, always expecting something new the kids might cook up.

“At least days are never the same,” Gee said of working at the club.

The Boys and Girls Club only has three full-time staff members and relies mostly on outside volunteers.

Many Elon students volunteer at the club for work study programs or simply to help out.

“We couldn’t do the program without Elon,” Gee said.

But running a program on a volunteer basis can be unreliable. The number of volunteers that come in daily can vary. There is no concrete list of volunteers who are always available, and Gee said the club needs more assistance.

Henderson said there needs to be more advertisements around Alamance County to “let the people in Burlington, Gibsonville (and) Elon know what we’re doing.”
Gee agreed, saying non-profit organizations often have a difficult time securing funding.