24 Years of Serving Kids in Acadiana
Director of Grants & Impact, Tamara Anthony has worn many hats throughout her 24 year career at Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana...Iberia Club Director and Director of Operations to name a few...but you will find her in her element at the Club surrounded by the kids she is so passionate about serving!
Congratulations, Tamara, on 24 years!!!!
Learn more about Tamara's BGCA experience through the Q & A below!
1. What has working at the Boys & Girls Clubs taught you about yourself?
Working at the Boys & Girls Club taught me that I am a bit tougher than I realized. It also taught me that serving others is truly my passion. As a child and throughout my primary and secondary years of school, my parents always gave back to our community. Although we didn’t necessarily have much in terms of materialistic things, we had love of one another and love of our community. This sense of giving has stuck with me throughout my life, so Boys & Girls Club was and is a natural fit for me. In addition, Boys & Girls Clubs has taught me that I am great at multi-tasking, prioritizing and problem solving. The biggest thing I have learned through my initial work with Boys & Girls Clubs is that I possessed keen nurturing and motherly instincts. This is something I never really thought about prior to working at Boys & Girls Clubs but assisted me in a big way once I became a parent. During my five years at the Iberia Boys & Girls Clubs I always treated my club members as if they were my own children. Therefore, their joys and even pains became my own. Their safety was my biggest priority.
2. Can you describe a particular moment or a series of moments that you knew that you were making an impact in a child’s life?
This should be an easy question for me to answer, but honestly, it’s not. I would like to think that I was able to positively impact at least one child. In choosing a moment specifically this would have to be from testimonials I have heard from Club alumni later in life. I have been told that the morals, values and teachable lessons as well as the many programs we offer at the Boys & Girls Clubs was a game changer in the lives of the youth my staff and I mentored over the years.
· One particular club member and his siblings attended regularly because their mom was a single parent and had to work multiple jobs and they had nowhere else to go. He was a leader
early on but always had a chip on his shoulder and felt he had something to prove. There were times he would get suspended from the club. However, he ALWAYS returned once his suspension was over and even would call throughout the suspension to determine if we would let him back early. Well, we never did because he had to learn a lesson and understand that we expected him to behave and follow the rules. Overall, he was never a bad child just one that needed a little more time, attention and love. I think our staff provided that to him and many others. Upon graduating from high school, he eventually got into some trouble. This was not a good time for him. Fast forward several years later and he will tell you that is when he began to draw upon all the lessons and tools the Club provided him with. THIS is what he tells me changed things for him. He will tell anyone that it was hard, but the turnaround was worth it. He eventually got married, had kids, works as a barber, assistant coach at a local private school, bus driver for the Iberia Parish School Board and is extremely involved in the community. This is a quote he recently gave in acknowledging my multiple years of service to the Boys & Girls Clubs movement. “Now this beautiful lady right here is the G.O.A.T.! I can’t thank her enough for the impact she had on my life, she helped lay the foundation I needed to become the man I am today. Torch Club, Keystone Club, Passport to Manhood, these are only a few programs she made sure we participated in before she rolled out the basketball, football, or any other sporting activity. And thank God she did because I’m still using those skills today! We love you Ms. T, please continue to be a blessing to our youth!”.
· There was a club member, Kerriontae, a vibrant six-year-old first-time club member. Our club site was new to the community, so we had LOTS of kids. I remember the summer when the Club first opened and there were days, we had 325 kids daily at the club! It was hot because our building had no air conditioner nor heat, but the kids did not complain and continued to come every single day. Well, Kerriontae was of those many kids that seem to enjoy the Club. One weekend I was at a local grocery store shopping and as I was checking out and about to leave, I hear a little voice saying, “Hey Ms. Camera!” (they often mispronounced my name lol) when I look up and saw who it was, I spoke to him and called his name. I will never forget the look on his face because he was so excited that I remembered his name and how to say it correctly. He continued to tell him mom that he couldn’t believe I remembered his name. At that moment, I realized that it is sometimes the small things that make a big difference. I always made it a priority to learn each one of my 325 kids’ names and how to pronounce them correctly. My staff and I even referred to them as Mr. & Ms. so and so quite often.
· Three cousins that would travel every summer and some school holidays from Atlanta, GA to New Iberia, LA to spend time with their grandparents and attend the club. They travelled from the age of 8 or so until their mid teen years and NEVER missed a summer. They absolutely LOVED the Club and making new friends that they are still friends with today. One of them still checks up on me and other staff regularly now.
· Through a social media post about my service to the youth in the community I was made aware by a club alumni parent of my impact. This was early in my career and this parent felt I made a difference in one of her children’s lives. This was a very simple thing, but it obviously made a difference to her and her child because she remembered it and wanted to share it with me. She said, “I remember Jordan was around 7 and this was the first year the club was open in New Iberia. All he wanted was for you to play basketball with him and you did. That was a magical place for him, and you were amazing and passionate for all your kids.”
It is hard to determine if you truly have made an impact positively on someone’s life especially when you are committed and passionate about what you are doing-you just do it and it comes naturally. Many years later I hear from Club alumni and their parents and these are the moments that truly make me feel and know that I have made a positive impact in the lives of some of my kids served early on.
3. Do you have a story from your time at a Club (big or small) that impacted your life?
I think that any story I share from my time working in a Club has impacted my life came many years later via Club alumni and their parents. That’s how I know the good work we do has HUGE impacts on the kids we serve.
There were several times when we as staff were instrumental in providing Club members with their first opportunity to leave Acadiana and the state of Louisiana for regional and national trips. Some of these were road trips and others were by plane. One teen was able to travel by plane to California to sing the National Anthem at BGCA’s National Keystone Conference. She was also able to visit Disney Land for the first time. I think that the many “firsts” provided to our members over the years has left a lasting impression on me. I know that providing youth especially at-risk youth with first-time opportunities and exposing them to things outside of their small world undoubtedly changes things positively for them and their future.
4. What can you tell people about the Boys & Girls Clubs that they may not know?
I would like people to know that Boys & Girls Clubs DOES change lives! Boys & Girls Clubs has and continues to save so many young people of our future generation. We work with a very diverse population with at-risk youth being most of the clients served. The youth we serve consider the Boys & Girls Club as a second home where they have consistency and trusted individuals that provide them with opportunities and experiences they may not otherwise be exposed to. Being that our program is a year-round program it truly offers programs and services to those families that need us most. Boys & Girls Clubs not only provides youth with opportunities to engage and learn sports activities, but educational, art, character and leadership, health and wellness programs as well as STEM throughout the year. We are truly doing whatever it takes to ensure our kids are safe, productive, engaged and has all necessary tools and resources to become successful citizens in the future in our communities.
5. Why should people get involved with the Club? (As volunteers, donors, staff)
There are many opportunities for individuals to get involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs. Whether that be as a volunteer, donor or staff, there are many experiences awaiting them. I feel that it is one of the most rewarding experiences. You truly feel and know you are making a difference. It makes you feel that you are putting “good” back into this oh so crazy world we now live in. The youth of today are our future and it only takes one individual, one program, one guest speaker or one field trip to change the course of a child’s life into a positive direction.