Jamol Jones was a kid with a story. A 29-year-old Benton native from the Ralph Bunche community who attended the Boys & Girls Club since the 3rd grade, Jamol grew up with a single mom who raised four boys and worked two and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.
Jamol remembers coming home from school, and if it wasn’t the electricity that was shut off it was the water, or there was no food to eat. “We heard about a place. We heard about a safe haven we could probably go to, to get out of the nonsense we were experiencing in our community at a young age.
We heard about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County. A place we could dream and become. This place became my life. It was the only constant in my life.” At the Boys & Girls Club, Jamol learned study habits and daily routines, and he’ll tell you that everything about the person he is today, he learned at the Club. “I learned the true meaning of consequences and discipline and respect for my fellow man. My dreams were established here.” Jamol is now a United States Army Veteran, husband, father and Benton Police Officer with a college degree.
This is just one of 50 years’ worth of success stories that began at the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County. The journey of becoming equipped to serve over 5,000 youth in the community each year has not been without challenges, but it is a story full of love and commitment to a cause that leaves lasting legacies.
In the winter of 1968, a dedicated group of city leaders forged a path to establish the Boys Club of Benton. The Club first opened its doors in November of 1968 in the old City Water Works building. In only a few months, membership grew to nearly 200 boys with the primary activity being that of basketball.
Although the Club was given its national charter as an autonomous member of the Boys Clubs of America in November of 1969, the Club struggled with finances, inadequate gym space, and a dilapidated facility, but it survived. In the early 1970’s a great deal of growth occurred and the Cox Street location was donated with the stipulation that the Club have the financing and backing to build a new facility within two years. In 1975 the building project began, and in the fall of 1978, the new Cox Street facility was opened.
After moving the Club to Cox Street, the programs flourished and the Club became an even more integral part of the community’s recreation and sporting program. In the early 90’s the decision was made to officially accept girls for full membership, changing the name to the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County.
Unfortunately, in 1994 the Club closed its doors due to lack of funds and community support. The resulting void in the community was tremendous. Then, in the early summer of that same year, the Club re-opened with the energized leadership of the Board of Directors and support of the community. Within 1 year, a new gymnasium, office and program space was built to accommodate growing membership.
In early 1998, a new unit opened at the Alexander Youth Services Center called Covenant Connections, and in the continuing desire to serve children in Central Arkansas, on January 4, 2016, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County reopened the former North Garland County Boys & Girls Club just outside the west gate of Hot Springs Village, renaming it The Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County, Cedar Mountain unit.
On April 1, 2017, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County celebrated the opening of a brand new flagship club off Airline Drive in Benton, called Riverside. The state-of-the art 52,000 square foot facility is one of the largest and most sophisticated Boys & Girls Clubs in the nation. Most recently, on November 1, 2017, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County opened Great Futures, a children’s daycare in Hot Springs Village that serves 70 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years.
Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saline County boasts a membership of over 3,300, with membership constantly increasing. With a staff of 131 people, the Club of Saline County and its branches invest daily in the lives of over 640 children and youth. Basketball, soccer and flag football alone allow roughly 1,000 youth to be part of a team and learn how to work together for a common goal.
The Boys & Girls Club of Saline County has evolved over the last 50 years, from its origins as a place for kids to play sports to a comprehensive program that teaches Character and Leadership; Health and Life Skills; Arts; Fitness and Recreation and Education and Career Development, through quality time with caring staff and mentors, and the use of constructive and innovative technology.
Through the vision of the Club, “Provide a world-class Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle,” and the selfless dedication of those who lead the organization, the mission of enabling all young people, especially those in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens is coming to fruition in the lives of the next generation of Saline County residents.
As the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County enters its next 50 years of operation, Saline County is dedicated to giving our kids, like Jamol, a place to be replenished with love, where self-worth is fed and confidence grows.