Boys and Girls Club honors local supporters

The Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana recently took time out to thank the board members and supporters from Vermilion Parish.

Director Arlene Armentor-Bonner said that in the beginning, there was a real question as to whether Abbeville would be able to support a local club. But, now, 20 years later, the club is still very much alive and growing. When the Abbeville club first opened, Armentor-Bonner was the local director, and as the club has grown over all of Acadiana, her position has also moved up to directing the entire region.

She said the reason they brought the directors and supporters together was to recognize the help that they have been to successfully running the Boys and Girls Club program in Abbeville. “Mayor Mark Piazza and the city council helped us find our home in the Comeaux Rec building and help in so many other ways as well,” said Armentor-Bonner. “Police Chief Rick Coleman and his officers take time during their days to stop in and talk to the kids and offer helpful solutions to problem areas. They also help keep the lines of communication to law enforcement in a positive light.”

Abbeville club director Bryan Ford made the comment that he’s used to talking to a group of kids and not a gathering of adults. “I’d feel more at home if some of you would make funny faces at me,” said Ford. He began his Club career in Opeloussas in 2002. From there, he moved to the New Iberia club in 2003, and then made the change to directing the Abbeville club in 2007. While he has been in Abbeville, the Boys and Girls Club has grown to 150 after school children and 250 children that take part in the summer program.

“Having a paid staff allows us to have consistant support for the kids,” said Ford. “They have so many instabilities in their lives that the leadership and guidance we offer as part of our program really makes a difference in their lives. Thank you for investing in the time and future of these kids.”

Roland Levine grew up in the Boys and Girls Club in Abbeville and is now the Program Director of the program he lived as a youth. “What it (the program) did for me kept me from getting in trouble. At the age of 12, my parents had their last argument and my mom moved us out. I was in the principal’s office every day and my back was just up against the wall every day. I ran into some friends one day that told me they were going to the Boys Club and I decided to tag along. The Club welcomed me with open arms and showed me another way of living and that there was more out there than just what was happening in Abbeville,” continued Levine.

“I filled out my first job application at the club. My first airplane flight and the first time I ever left Louisiana was because of the Club,” said Levine. “I had been chosen to serve on a national steering committee in Minneapolis and that’s how the ride on the airplane happened. Now I have two years left in college.”

Armentor-Bonner finished the story about Levine’s trip to Minneapolis saying how the local group decided to have a welcome home reception at the Lafayette airport. “Back then, there weren’t the security issues there are today and we had folks lined up with signs saying ‘Welcome home, Roland’ and cheering for him as he came in from the boarding site. What we didn’t know was that Ali Landry, who had just won as Miss USA, was also on that flight with Roland. She was dressed comfortably and not as Miss USA and thought the greeting committee was for her.”

In addition to the local fund donated, the Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana also receives funds from the United Way.

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