Like the many attendees at the Boys and Girls Club 50th Annual Celebration in September, Elaine Griffin was excited to be a part of the milestone event. She was one of the speakers during the festivities.
Griffin took to the podium to share her experiences and the reason behind the Club's five decades of success, locally. It's something that she understands completely.
She grew up in the Golden Isles and was able to observe how the program help to form bonds, even across racial lines which were tense at the time. And that was certainly something she observed during her upbringing.
"I grew up in Brunswick and I recently returned to the Golden Isles. I worked in New York and Paris," the Yale graduate said.
"My father was Dr. Griffin, he was the first doctor to integrate the medical practices of Southeast Georgia in the 60s. He was the first first black surgeon to operate at the hospital."
Her father's success inspired her own. The younger Griffin went on to attend an Ivey League university and have a successful career as a publicist and interior designer. She worked in fast-paced cities like New York and Paris. But, all the while, she never forgot where she came from or where she formed her foundation.
"I've been so blessed. But I had an incredible secure foundation in the Golden Isles that gave me a platform from which I could go out and explore the rest of the world," she said.
She knows, however, that not all children have this solid base. That's why she feels the Boys and Girls Club is so important. It provides that strong sense of stability for thousands of children in the area. And that was the message she shared at the Club's event, held Sept. 13.
"That was part of my speech — it really does take a village to raise a child and that's what I shared at the gathering, which was mostly the sponsors, the board members and the volunteers who have been with them from the beginning. We might not really realize how amazing this community is ... South Georgia might have shortcomings but one of our greatest strengths is that everyone here cares. That's especially true at the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia," Griffin said.
"They have joined together to create this network of support that is available to every child. That helps to create this strength of character that you need to go out and conquer the world."
Griffin says that no one can become a contributing member of society unless they have a safe place to learn and to grow as a child. And even if family life at home is less than ideal, the Club provides that atmosphere.
"And they need a place to see good behavior modeled. That's the mission of our Boys and Girl's Club," she said.
She knows that is what the Boys and Girls Club offers locally. But she also knows it's a mission shared throughout the national organization. Griffin has seen it. She was an active member of the Kips Bay program in New York.
"I was introduced to the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club of the Bronx when I participated in the Kips Bay Decorators' Showhouse in 2003. I was appointed to their Decorators' Committee the following year, and have been working with them ever since," she said.
And Griffin knows just how critical continued involvement is for the children of Glynn County.
"The Boys and Girls Club has impacted more than 15,000 children since its inception in 1966. That's the equivalent to the approximate population of the city of Brunswick," she said.
"The community is the essential third element in trifecta. It's about parents, preparation and partnership. We are just so grateful that the community plays active and vibrant role in keeping Boys and Girls Club here alive and prospering."