For Nia Anderson, 18, the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan is her home and the diverse members of the staff are her family.
Jennifer Henry said that in the absence of a true father figure, several people at the club have guided her, probably without even knowing they were doing so.
Da’Lano Bass, 14, said the club is a place where youth like himself are nurtured and encouraged to explore positive choices.
All three were among those who spoke at the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan’s Friendship Breakfast on March 30 at the Detroit Athletic Club. The breakfast also serves as a fundraiser.
Len Krichko, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan, said the goal of the event was to raise more than $100,000.
He added that individual giving is the key to the club’s survival.
Tom Hoeg, chairman of the board of Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan, said the funding budget has gone from $7 million to $4 million. The clubs support 20,000 kids every year.
Nia, a student at Cass Tech High School and third place finalist for Youth of the Year, attends the Howard B. Bloomer Club. She overcame her shyness and became involved in extracurricular activities.
Jennifer, a senior at Belleville High School and the second place finalist for Youth of the Year, attends the Donahey Club. She said “family” is the word that captures the essence of the club.
Da’Lano, the 2011 Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan Youth of the Year, is a student at Cass Tech and attends the Lloyd H. Diehl Club. He said members learn to be accepting of each other, and to celebrate diversity.
Michigan Chronicle interim publisher Hiram Jackson, a club alumnus and member of the board of directors, explained how he grew up in a one bedroom apartment in Highland Park, one of a family of five.
“My dad was a janitor in the school system, and my mom worked at a nursing home,” he said, adding that the club saved his life.