Elaina Damante has been the director of the Boys & Girls Club of Alma for the past five years. Having a background in business Damante was hired in Alma to grow the club back up to charter standards. Damante was able to grow the club’s daily attendance from 51 students to 226 students and strengthen the programs back to charter standards over the five year span.

Back in the fall, Damante was approached by the Boys and Girls Club national office and asked to step into the role of interim director in Paris to strengthen and grow the club as she did in Alma.

Damante agreed to work two days a week in Paris to provide assistance and resources to the employees, volunteers, students and families of the club.

“When I first walked into the building, I fell in love. It is so gorgeous,” said Damante.

Damante said that after hearing the history of the club including the gym floor that used to in an old school gym she realized that the Boys & Girls Club of Paris was the heart of the community and that made it even more critical for her to help Paris rise to the top.

Damante will develop and execute the overall funding strategy for the club and cultivate and lead stewardship efforts and managing brand integrity, marketing, and communications for the Club’s numerous activities.

“The first thing I did was hire more people. One of the major problems was that the club was severely understaffed and not meeting the staff to student ratios that are required.”

Damante said she hired an athletic director to run the sports problems, an office assistant and five part-time afternoon workers that mentor and take care of the children.

“I just hired one more person, a unit program director that I feel is the final piece of the puzzle,” said Damante.

Damante said that she will still remain as the interim director but having a day to day person to run the operations is where the need is.

One of the most important changes that Damante has made to the club’s rules is regarding security.

“I hired a front desk attendant to only focus on the children being checked out.”

Damante said that it was a big expense to the club but it was an expense that was worth every penny and the overall safety of the children comes before anything else.

“You must be on the check out list for that child before a child is allowed to leave with you.”

Another change that Damante made to the club rules is that she implemented a “no-touch” rule. This rule provides the parents with the reassurance that the staff will jump in any case of one child laying hands on another child.

“I have been here for five months and it took some adjusting but the children finally understand and it has been running smoothly.”

The Club also completes background checks on all staff and volunteers.

“If you walk through the door past the check in desk you are required to have a full background check that has been returned and is clean by the Club’s standards.

Damante said that these changes were made based on the holes in the program that national become aware of and wanted to be brought up to the Club’s standards.

“All security measures that have been put in place is to safeguard the students, parents and staff and to allow the Club to thrive.”

“The Club is starting to see fruits of our labor.”

Damante said that the Club will also run an eight-week program this summer that will provide the students with two meals and theme-week programs.

With a focus on enabling all young people—especially those who need the Club the most—to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens, the Club enriches the lives of girls and boys within their community. The Boys & Girls Club of Paris is dedicated to ensuring that the community’s disadvantaged youth have greater access to quality programs and services that will enhance their lives and shape their futures.

“We have great kids and we want our children to be successful,” said Damante.

“The community has been so amazing and supportive to this Club.”

For more information on any coming programs up contact the Club at 479- 963-3577 or visit http://parisbgc.org/.