The Players Championship Boys and Girls Club reported to Historic City News that on Thursday, November 19th, the ground breaking ceremonies were held for their new state-of-the-art facility; a 15,000 square foot Boys and Girls Club, located at 555 West King Street in St. Augustine.
Guest Columnist, and Historic City News contributor Derek Boyd Hankerson, told us that the opportunity to spearhead the first ever Boys and Girls Club in St. Johns County, presented itself seven years ago when he moved to St. Augustine.
“You can imagine that as the founding member of the first-ever club in this area, and, as an alumni of a Boys and Girls Club myself, this event left me speechless — which does not happen often”, Hankerson said.
The original location of the club was the “Woodlawn Terrace” apartment complex off King Street in St. Johns County. After the first month of opening the club, it was at capacity. The new facility opens in 2010.
Hankerson, who lived in Prince Georges County, Maryland as a youth, was active in his local club where he learned, through sports, about education, leadership, teamwork, community service, and, among other things, how to “be great in all that we do”, as the motto states.
Hankerson told us, “Fortunately for me in the Boys and Girls Club that I learned to swim and then swam the butterfly and freestyle competitively from 5-13, while playing other sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and running track.”
Hankerson would travel to St. Augustine to visit other family members who were living here while he was growing up. He recalled, “At that time there was not much for kids to do.”
Hankerson explained, “It became my personal vision that if I was ever fortunate enough to live in St. Augustine, the first thing that I would do is to start a Boys and Girls Club so that the kids growing up in this area could experience what I was blessed to experience while growing up in the suburbs of the Nations Capitol.”
“I am delighted to be able to use myself as an example”, Hankerson told us. “Because I talk the talk and walk the walk.”
“The Boys and Girls Clubs have an incredible impact on kids and provide a different outlook. They help in building self esteem and prepare us for the future”, Hankerson said.
We asked Hankerson what was most important to him in relocating and expanding the facilities, he said, “We all realize, as adults it is all about the kids.”
Hankerson continued, “The experience can transition young people into adulthood, as it has for others such as Alex Rodriquez and Denzel Washington; who were Boys and Girls Club members.”
By comparison, Hankerson told us, “While I do not have their financial resources, I have something just a powerful in my life, God.”
Hankerson explained, “Most importantly, let me add that this vision came to me from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am only the conduit and servant; blessed to assist with his work.”
“On a personal note, our family knows that God works in our lives”, Hankerson said. “The new club is approximately a block away from Shiloh Baptist, where our cousin, Reverend Elijah E. Hankerson, was the pastor when it was built in 1937.”
Hankerson also credits the support of elected officials from the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County, financial backers, and the wonderful community at large for helping him to see his vision become a reality. “None of this would have happened without them” Hankerson says.
When asked what Hankerson wanted to say to those who have joined him as he pursued his vision, “In essence thank you for the trust, sharing in a vision, and offering support for the next generation by providing a positive place for kids through the Boys and Girls Club of America.”