The Magic Ingredients of The Boys & Girls Club


By Lisa Woodrum

The atmosphere was electric as I entered the gymnasium: confetti falling from above, balloons floating around, popping, the smell of pizza, rousing music resounding above the din of laughter and chatter of young and old! Youth were running about, others playing foosball, hoops and presenters at their stations ready to enthusiastically share their Club theme and expertise on their subjects.

It certainly was a great reason for this celebratory atmosphere at the Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast (BGCEC). The ribbon was just cut at the front door of the Jacobe Turner Teen Center (hosted by the Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce). This act initiated a new season of serving the community’s youth with their Grand Re-opening—a new beginning with a name that honors a youth from the recent past. Jacobe Turner’s life modeled and exemplified the values espoused at BGCEC. He was a longtime member who was their 2019 Organizational Youth of the Year. He tragically lost his life in a car accident in 2020. His life and legacy are appropriately commemorated through this organization.
While I spoke with the youth, they each referred to the center’s prior rundown condition, but then gleamed as they expressed pride in the facility’s upgrade and new face.

The mission of the BGCEC is: “To enable all young people, especially those that need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.” It is evident that the staff and volunteers of this organization have successfully taught this as I spoke to the youth.

Shervin Rassa, the Chief Executive Officer shared, “I am a firm believer that our magic ingredient in our Boys and Girls Club mission is the amazing, informal mentorship young people get from dynamic and caring adults.”

Here are samples of a few Clubs they offer:

Passport to Manhood Club: Jonathan Hamilton and Dwayne Dixon shared they learn maturity, responsibility, respect for elders and all individuals. Smart Girls: Taylor Davis and Danica Fears spoke of learning self-esteem, healthy relationships and nutrition. They said they now felt more confident about their futures.

Robotics: Sebastian McDonald and Layna McBride explained the cooperation of two groups to successfully have fully functional robots, of which they take to competitions! Good Luck!

Career Fields: Layna McBride recounted her experience with Old Navy guest instructors teaching interviewing skills, cashiering, etc. They also learn of (in part) budgeting, public speaking, etiquette and networking.

Some outstanding qualities I noted in the youth as I spoke with them were articulate, knowledgeable, leaders, mature, authentic, enthusiastic, confident and exemplary, to name a few descriptive words. I am confident each has a bright future!

The BGCEC is positioning itself in this new chapter to once again serve many more teenagers. They can’t do it alone. BGCEC welcomes new volunteers, mentors and potential staff candidates to apply online. If it is in your heart to partner with them, visit the website at to inquire as well as learn the history and details of the organization.

The new face lift could not have happened without Florida Power & Light and the ALL Sports Association, Inc. Thank you for your generosity!

As one would expect, to continue with their mission, funds continue to be needed and welcome. There are upcoming fundraisers you can enjoy attending while contributing to a very worthy cause, such as the Bowling Tournament, Saturday, April 13. Tickets are $160 per four-person team; FWB Bowling Center, 745 Beal Parkway. View all the events and purchase tickets at