JANUARY 20TH 2021:
The year 2021 is set to be a banner year for the Lincoln Enrichment Center in Wagoner, where children can discover and develop their unique talents in pursuit of becoming the best individuals they can be.
LEC President John W. Jones said the center’s big goal for the new year is continued progress to become an everyday Boys and Girls Club that provides youth character development programs for youngsters.
Brighter Futures is a very successful program that currently operates at the LEC.
“Our kids need us now more than ever before,” Jones said. “That will be our continual goal and push – to increase monthly donations and support so we can work toward getting full- and part-time staff positions in order to be open every day.”
He noted Wagoner Public Schools had been operating a virtual learning hub at the LEC each Tuesday through Friday until everything went all virtual. Jones said that process will continue so children can learn when they are not doing in-person classes. The focus will be on youngsters who need additional support during those days.
As the children currently have Chrome books to use, LEC has utilized WPS hot spots for internet access. Once a local Boys and Girls Club is established, it will hopefully have an internet hub.
“We have discovered how many people in families have difficulty with remote learning,” Jones noted. “Our eventual goal and objective is to have an actual internet hub and staff, whether in the form of a relationship with WPS or LEC, for tutors to assist our students outside of the virtual learning setting. That is a model that’s been successful nationwide.
In January and February, LEC plans to complete a feasibility study through Zoom meetings – the next big step to earning Boys and Girls Club status.
“We already know Wagoner has a need, but our next campaign is to work on consistent monthly donations,” Jones said. “We will do a lot of promoting on different Facebook pages to describe our programs and how financial support can help us meet our objectives to expand.”
Jones reminded many places do not have adequate staff on hand to stay open. As most of LEC’s volunteers are retired, many are susceptible to the coronavirus. This affects the ability to have an adequate number of volunteers.
“We’ve traveled to quite a few clubs and organizations. The ones that are successful have a combination of part-time staff, full-time staff and volunteers,” Jones said. “We already have a great volunteer base and support from the community, but we need to take the next step to get staffing. Most clubs do not rely on volunteers for day-to-day operations, they are just a bonus.”
The LEC hopes to have a core of two or three full-time staff members as well as part-time staffers. He said anyone age 15 and over can be certified; therefore, many students could step up to help part-time.
“We’ve had so many phenomenal kids come through from CrissCross and National Honor Society programs. We’ve also had partnerships with the 4-H club that has done things with the learning garden,” Jones said. “Clubs are a wonderful place for the entire community to engage in.”
Dr. Suzanne Salichs said there is a four-step model to start a Boys and Girls Club. The first is a community assessment that gauges what issues there may be and what community needs are. This step was completed in 2019.
The second step is to cultivate community leaders by speaking with the school district, business leaders, faith based programs and city officials. Dr. Salichs said this step is 90 percent complete in Wagoner.
The third step is to create strategic goals.
“We’ve developed a business plan and need assessment. We have also drafted an advisory council,” she explained. “In this step is where feasibility comes in and is crucial. This is a three-year budget, and we already have the draft in place. We are solidly in this step and almost halfway through.”
The fourth step is to continue the momentum of implementing a three-year plan. This includes identification of prospect and location, a site review and focus on fundraising.”
Jones noted with fundraising, people will need to make a two- to three-year commitment to help.
“It’s up to the community to provide the initial 60-70 percent of the cot for the first few years of operation. Then more funding becomes available. They want that percentage support for operational costs. That’s what makes a club sustainable,” Jones said. “They do not want to open a club that will not last.”
Dr. Salichs said LEC is not soliciting donations from the Wagoner community, but investments.
“We are asking people to invest in our children, their futures and our community. That’s a good business plan,” she said. “A good business will have investment and what do you get in return.”
Jones said nationally, for every dollar a community contributes to a Boys and Girls Club, there is a return of $9 plus some change. I Oklahoma, however, for every dollar it invests, there’s an average of nearly a $14 return.
“We look to dramatically increase resources to work with our kids and for our kids,” Jones said. Marvin Brown has put together a good social media campaign that will start being released on Facebook. People can contribute straight to us or on our website, LECagoner.org.
“We want to take this opportunity to thank the Wagoner community for its continual support. We wouldn’t be having this conversation without them,” Jones added.
As LEC becomes a community center, plans call for Oklahoma Works to have a career manager on site where individuals can come in and receive services rather than go to Muskogee. Officials will also be working with Oklahoma Legal Services and Legal Aid to provide those services here as well.
“We know there is a need, it’s getting people to come to the door. We are super excited!” Dr. Salichs exclaimed.
Anyone who may be interested in volunteering or donating to LEC can call 918-807-0262 (Jones). Contributions can also be mailed to P.O. Box 72, Wagoner, Okla., 74477.