The first Coast Boys Club opened on Biloxi's Howard Avenue in 1966 and was whammied by Hurricane Camille three years later. That was not the only monumental change: The venerable national organization founded in the 1800s in Connecticut soon would add girls.|
The hurricane-replacement club for East Biloxi's Back Bay community was called the Lundays Unit. As the region's population grew, so did B&G's Coastwide breadth.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast now administers clubs in Harrison and Hancock counties. Equal opportunity Katrina showed no mercy to the nonprofit social service organization that works with communities to turn their children into successful adults through play, teaching life skills and mentoring.
"The only clubs of ours that were not damaged were the units in several schools," said Gulf Coast B&G executive director Sue Reed.
The Lundays Unit clubhouse is gone; so is another popular B&G site on Biloxi's beachfront used for administration and weekly bingo fundraisings. Neither will be rebuilt, Reed said, but there will be a new clubhouse at the nearby Hope VI public housing project, now under construction.
Clubhouses in North Gulfport and Pass Christian are gone but Reed says those will be replaced with a new concept called hope centers, B&G clubs with broader application that allows for senior and other community programs.
Schools in D'Iberville, Bay-Waveland and Biloxi's Popp's Ferry had B&G units before Katrina, and those have continued, even if in other places. And for the East Biloxi children who no longer have a clubhouse, they can take advantage of the new unit set up at Beauvoir Elementary, where many are already bused for classes.
"We are only going to continue to do more and more," said Reed. "This is so needed because we provide stability for the kids. Our goal is to build back clubs and provide more services because it is desperately needed for children and their families."
- KAT BERGERON