“I have learned strength from young people”–Ron Ross, Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton

On August 20, 2019, I had breakfast with Ron Ross, the Executive Director of Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton.  As I listened to Ron tell countless stories, my mind wandered just a bit.  Not because of boredom.  But, rather, I found myself asking why I waited so long to follow-through on the idea of Good News from a Good Neighbor.  Ross has been, and continues to be an incredible asset to our town, to the organization he represents, and to the children and their families he works with daily.

“Ron Ross Boys and Girls Club”.  He says it in the same uninterrupted cadence that you and I say our own names.  It’s as if his first name is “Ron Ross” and his last name is “Boys and Girls Club”.  But I’ve never heard Ron Ross Boys and Girls Club introduce himself in any other way. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to spend time talking with Ross, I have a new appreciation for the way he introduces himself: it is a reflection not only of his tenure with Boys and Girls Club, but also of the passion he has for working with children.

Ross has been affiliated with Boys and Girls Club since 1968—51 years!  And if you subscribe to the idea that some things are “just meant to be”, then the story of Ross’ beginning days with the organization will certainly add credence to your belief.  In Fayetteville, at the age of 17, Ross had a part-time job cleaning dishes at a restaurant.  He would take the bus to work, but since he didn’t get off until midnight, and since bus service didn’t operate at that hour, he literally would walk home.  Occasionally, he would “thumb it”, as he calls it.  One day, he was picked up by a person who introduced himself as the director of the Boys Club (it wasn’t called Boys AND Girls Club until 1990) and offered him a part-time job.  The appeal of working shorter hours and ONLY having to walk 2 miles home was too much to pass up.  And so, in a serendipitous moment, Ron Ross’ dedication to the Boys and Girls Club began. 

In the mid-1990s, the process began to establish a Boys and Girls Club in Lumberton.  Ross was approached by James Meacher (who, by the way, sold me the winning Duck Race ticket) to apply for the position of Executive Director.  The only problem was that Ross didn’t have a resume.  In fact, he never had a resume, since he had worked for just one employer since the age of 17–which was, or course, the Boys Club in Fayetteville.   His solution was to simply cut out an article from a local magazine that had highlighted his successes at the Fayetteville club, and send it in (eventually, he admits, he did prepare a “proper” resume, but that version of the story isn’t as much fun to tell).

Speaking of stories, Ross can spend hours talking about his work with young people, and those are Ron’s stories to tell—not mine.  But I can tell you that a common underlying thread is a consistency in how he interacts with children.  The approach he has taken with the boys and girls who have come through the program demonstrate lessons that every parent should want to teach their children.

What’s the Good News?

For two days, I have been thinking about how to eloquently elaborate on those lessons.  I have finally come to the conclusion that Ross’ words are profound enough on their own.  I have listed them below, with very brief commentary. The Good News from a Good Neighbor this month is simply that Ron Ross Boys and Girls Club is who he is, which, in a word, is passionate.

  • “You can do anything you want to do.  But are you willing to pay the consequences?”  This is a message that Ron asks young people who are on the verge of making an unwise decision.  I really like how Ross empowers the person to make their own decision.
  •  “What we think is tough, is not tough.”  Ross puts an emphasis on “WE.”.  Ross has seen first-hand some of the “tough” situations that children experience.
  • “Can I help the person change their life?  They’ve got to do it.  But can I help?”
  • “I have learned strength from young people.”

A quick snapshot of the Lumberton Club:

Currently, there are about 230 youth in the Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton, ranging in ages from 6 to 18.  The fee is $5 per school year, and $5 per summer.  Ross points out that many clubs in North Carolina and throughout the country charge substantially more, making it a barrier for access.  If a child doesn’t have the money to pay the $5, they can “work it off” by sweeping, cleaning, or doing other chores around the club.  The club is open Monday-Friday after school from 2-6pm, and during the summer from 9am-4pm.  During the school year, children arrive at the club and are given time to play and “unwind” from their school day.  At 4:00, “Power Hour” begins, which is a time for the children to do their homework (with assistance from Ross or other staff members when needed).  At 5:00, the students will participate in various programming, such as the “Smart Moves” program (which is an alcohol/drug prevention program) or the Cal Ripken program (which promotes exercise and sportsmanship).  At around 5:30, there is “left over” time to play or finish homework. 

One of the highlights of the year is the Christmas Party, where every child who shows up (whether they are Boys and Girls Club members or not) gets a Christmas present.  I have had the opportunity to help hand out presents several times.  You should make a point to do the same. 

If you would like to volunteer or donate to Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton, Ross can be reached at 910-738-8474.  The club is located at 1310 N. Seneca Street, Lumberton.

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