Our history as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi began in 1936 when members of the Jackson Exchange Club met to discuss organizing a Boys Club in Jackson. After several local meetings, a representative from the Boys Clubs of America was invited to Jackson to aid in the planning of a local Club. In 1937, Jackson’s first Club was completed. The Club, on Hiawatha Street, was operated by the Jackson Exchange Club for the next three years and served around four hundred boys. In the following decades, Jackson saw the opening of multiple other Boys Clubs in the area.
In 1955, a Capital Funds Campaign raised funds for a new building to be located on Capitol Street. Construction for the new Club began in 1957. By 1959, all Boys Clubs programs were moved to the Capitol Street Boys Club which gave more children the opportunity to participate in our programs.
In 1961, the Boys Club received a generous donation from John I. Hay to build a camp on 320 acres of land in Copiah County. The camp facility opened in the summer of that year and it is still in operation today through the support of the John I. Hay Foundation. Near Hazlehurst, the camping program serves more than 1,200 boys and girls each year, many of whom rarely have an opportunity to leave their urban setting.
In 1972, the Boys Club decided to expand into a multi-unit operation with additional branches in order to reach even more children in the Jackson area. The name of the organization was changed to the Metropolitan Jackson, Mississippi Boys Clubs, Inc. Through a succession of Capital Funds Campaigns, the necessary funds were raised to construct new Club facilities, the first of which was completed in 1978 on Sykes Road in South Jackson. In 1985, the Calvin L. Walker Club on Raymond Road in Southwest Jackson opened. In 1987, with the cooperation of the Jackson Housing Authority, a program was started at the Whiterock Public Housing Community. Bus service was provided to pick up children at Willow Grove Apartments and the Jackson Housing Authority furnished the facilities as well as the upkeep.
While girls also participated in Boys Club activities, the national organization’s name was not officially changed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America until 1990. Our local Club name was changed accordingly, to the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Jackson, MS, Inc.
In 1993, Calvin L. Walker retired from his position as executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Jackson, MS, Inc., after 45 years of service. L. Patrick Gunnin was hired as new executive director. October of 1996 saw the opening of the Boys and Girls Club Canton Unit in the Canton Community Center. In April of 1997, Billy Redd was hired as the fourth Executive Director of the organization’s history. Redd continues to serve the Boys and Girls Clubs, currently in his thirteenth year as CEO/President.
The Velma Jackson Unit was opened in September of 2000, on the campus of Velma Jackson School in Camden, MS. In 2001, a strategic plan was developed to better reflect the tri-county area served. With the adoption of this new plan, the name of our organization was changed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi.
In June of 2003, two clubs were opened in partnership with Rankin County Schools – one in Pelahatchie and one in Puckett. Additionally, a club was opened in Bolton in January of 2005 in partnership with Hinds County Schools.
In January of 2005, the Bolton Club was opened through the Hinds County School System
In January of 2005, the Whiterock Club moved to the Magnolia Club
In 2006, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi celebrated our 70th birthday and inducted the inaugural Hall of Fame class. The honored members were D.D. Lewis, Frank Day, and Senator Thad Cochran.
Since 1936, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi has been the leading youth development organization in the region. Disguising learning as fun, we inspire and enable young people to become successful, responsible citizens. Thousands of our alumni confirm the fact that we change the lives of at-risk youth through our efforts each and every day.
We currently serve more than 2,200 children and teenagers in the Central Mississippi area through four Clubs, as well as the John I. Hay Camp:
- Capitol Unit
- Sykes Unit
- Canton Unit
- Walker Unit
- Camp John I. Hay