Comprised of 8 branches throughout the city, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth provide programming focused on academic success, healthy lifestyles and positive citizenship – all key to developing youth. But what makes these branches in Texas different from others across the country is the “Comin’ Up: Gang Intervention” program they developed in partnership with the city of Fort Worth.
Comin’ Up aims to provide services and activities for more than 1,000 gang-involved youth between the ages of 13 and 24 to help reduce gang violence and positively influence young people. The program was created in the mid-’90s to combat the rise in gang-related deaths in Fort Worth. Comin’ Up encourages its members to change their lives and provides assistance to help them earn their GED, learn new life skills and land a job. The 10 Clubs provide a safe haven for at-risk youth every weekday between 7 and 11 p.m.
At the Panther branch on Hemphill Street, the leadership team also strives to meet the growing needs of the greater teen population. As one of the oldest Clubs in Fort Worth, the Panther branch has been serving youth since 1926. Over the years, the number of teens attending the Club has increased, but in recent years the teen center became less functional and unappealing to its members.
“The teen center had a pebble floor, hardiplank siding for walls and only had enough seating for 10 to 15 people, even though we consistently have over 30 teens every day,” said Gregory Gibbs, chief development officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth.
The teen center was long overdue for a renovation and expansion, and it received both this fall, with the help of a $50,000 grant through Lowe’s Renovation Across the Nation.
From the start, the teens provided input on how they wanted the room to look and feel –including new paint, flooring and lighting – to make it more functional and attract new members.
Over the course of three weeks, 63 Lowe’s Heroes from 14 stores in the area went to work to make over the teen center. By removing walls, replacing the ceiling and old floor, and adding new recessed and pendant lighting, they began to transform the room.
“Every day the kids tried to sneak into the room just to see what was going on; they all knew something big was happening in there,” said Jeremiah Stanley, Lowe’s store manager in south Fort Worth. “To see their faces and their excitement level was a blessing in itself.”
Since the renovations in the teen center were completed, the Panther branch has seen a 50 percent increase in teen enrollment. Not only does the teen center help to retain interest and engagement in the Club, but it’s also used after hours for Comin’ Up. Last year, more than 100 young people achieved a life change through Comin’ Up, and the Lowe’s grant helped the Club improve its services for members in the program.
“Recruitment is hard for this program, and the new teen room has greatly been able to help us recruit members into the program – probably one of the bigger impacts,” said Chief Operating Officer J.D. Newsom. “Having an area where teens and young adults want to be allows us to help them, enroll them in programming and achieve life changes. If we cannot get anyone into the building, then we cannot help them.
“Having a renovated space will attract new members in a significant way.”
Each month, Open House will feature renovations being completed at Clubs across the country. Check back to see how these transformations are impacting the kids and teens served by Boys & Girls Clubs.