Sometimes reading the local news, such as The Saline Courier, can pay dividends or bring great rewards to those in need. This is exactly what happened for the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County on Thursday, thanks to big hearts inside the Rent-A-Center corporation.
It all started back on Jan. 22 when a story concerning Boys and Girls Club organizations across the state losing about $3 million of federal funding appeared in the Courier. In that story, the importance of the Boys and Girls Club to numerous lives and all the possibilities they provide for everyone was expressed by the club members, parents, and employees.
There are thousands of children that visit these facilities of Benton and Bryant every day — 800 children are enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant. It is a place that not only can parents feel is safe for their children to stay after school each day, the Boys and Girls Clubs also provide an environment for a well-rounded experience — from playing and/or talking with friends on the playground, gym floor, snack line, arts and crafts room, music room, game and recreation room, the teen center, a place to work on school studies, use of modern technology such as up-to-date computers and software, LeapPads or calculators and much more. Children also can meet with any number of tutors to help them better understand their school assignments or even learn more about a subject of interest if they choose; the services are there at the children's convenience.
They also provide a place where children can receive positive guidance. If a child has self-esteem issues, there's a program to help. If a child needs to learn how to become a strong leader, or how to communicate better with other children or adults, there are programs available for them. If a child doesn't have much food at home, which can hinder their physical and mental growth, the staff at the local Boys and Girls Club facilities make sure they get nutritional foods. Many children can even take home backpacks stuffed with food. Some children may need help with clothing and fortunately there are staff members that are eager to help. The staff also know how to provide food and/or clothing in a discreet manner so as not to embarrass children or their parents.
But that is just the beginning of what all the Boys and Girls Club provide. All this information was shared in that Jan. 22 account, and it apparently caught the eye of some local readers.
"After that article, a few readers decided 'we are not going to let them take this from kids,'" Jasen Kelly, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County said to a large group of children huddled in the gym on Thursday. According to Kelly, a few readers made a few phone calls and found a way to contact the upper management in the Rent-A-Center corporation. Then on Thursday, their telephone calls paid off handsomely when Rent-A-Center Public Affairs Manager Kenneth Jones pulled down a curtain and revealed to the surprised children a plethora of furniture and electronic equipment. After the "oohs and aahs" from the wide-eyed children simmered down, Jones told the crowd that he also is a Boys and Girls Club alum.
"It means a lot to me to see you all here," he said. "The fact that you are here after school doing your homework, being social, being constructive citizens — it really means a lot. It paved the way for my success. and I know it will for you also."
And then chaos erupted when Kelly told all the children, "go enjoy your new donations." The children bundled up on the new couches, played video games on the new Xbox 360 Kinect bundles and TV sets, and checked out the new computers.
"In these tough times, the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County is needed now more than ever to support entire families here in our community," Kelly said. "Thanks to the great donation from Rent-A-Center and their dedication to Boys and Girls Clubs, we can continue to positively impact our community."
The donation is tied to a philanthropic initiative dubbed Random Acts of Caring launched by Rent-A-Center in 2008. Jones said this is the 83rd act undertaken since Rent-A-Center launched this initiative to support the communities it serves.
"We selected Boys and Girls Club of Saline County in recognition of this organization’s long-standing commitment to meeting the needs and improving the lives of young people in Saline County," he said.
In total, the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County received two 42-inch high-definition liquid crystal display television sets; two media stands; two Xbox 360 Kinect bundles; two sofa and loveseat sets with accent pillows; and four 20-inch Hewlett Packard computers.
Rent-A-Center, headquartered in Plano, Texas, operates more than 3,000 company-owned stores nationwide and in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The stores generally offer high-quality, durable goods such as major consumer electronics, appliances, computers, furniture and accessories under flexible rental-purchase agreements that generally allow the customer to obtain ownership of the merchandise at the conclusion of an agreed upon rental period.
At the opening of the unveiling, Benton Junior High student and Boys & Girls Club of Saline County President Jade Griffin told the crowd about the history of Rent-A-Center.