An Alma couple who give their time consistently to the Alma Area Boys and Girls Club was named as the club’s volunteers of the year during a fundraising gala Thursday night.
Dick Watt, 88, and Barbara Watt, were presented the Alma Area Boys and Girls Club 2017 volunteers of the year award Thursday night during the Great Futures Gala, a fundraising event for the Alma club.
The Watts have held the Good News Club an hour every Tuesday since February 2009. Good News Club is an outreach of Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Alma Area Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Elaina Damante said the Good News Club is one of the most popular programs at the Alma club.
“The children light up when they see Dick and Barbara,” Damante said. “They have been a constant in the club. They care for the children and the children know this.”
As part of their program, the Watts teach “simple Bible truths” to children through games, movies, crafts, songs and stories, Damante said. They average about 60 children in the program, she said.
Hannah Meyers, a member of the Alma club and a finalist for the 2017 youth of the year, presented the Watts with their award. Meyers has attended the Good News Club since its inception in 2009.
When accepting their award, the Watts gave thanks to the club staff and Damante for their support.
“We’re very proud to be a part of this organization … it’s been a wonderful experience,” Barbara Watts said.
Also during the event, the three Alma youth of the year finalists Meyers, Geneva Brown and winner Cesar Davila each gave speeches prepared as part of their entry for youth of the year.
Meyers and Davila, teens who both started attending Boys and Girls Club at the age of 5, shortened their speeches after becoming emotional while sharing difficulties from their lives.
Davila spoke on the support and care he was provided by the club.
“Without a doubt, the club is my second home,” Davila said. “It’s a place where I’m encouraged to make good decisions, and you know it’s not always easy to make good decisions.”
Davila became emotional when he spoke about his family life, the absence of his father and how his family often moved around.
“I remember times when we didn’t have food to eat … the club was there when no one else was,” Davila said.
Damante has been a mentor for Davila, he said, counseling him through his anger. Attending the club helped him improve his grades and learn leadership skills, he said.
Meyers found security at the club and developed relationships, she said, while Brown called the club a “safe haven.”
Brown and Meyers were presented with certificates and Davila with his Alma Area Boys and Girls Club 2017 youth of the year award.
Taylor Martinez, Alma Area Boys and Girls Club research development director, called the three teens “extraordinary.”
“I think tonight we have seen first hand the work that we do at the club,” Martinez said.
During the gala, Damante gave the audience an update on the club’s programs, projects, partnerships and needs, and thanked its board and supporters.
Proceeds from the gala covers the cost of the club’s summer program, which is attended by about 200 children, Damante said. Damante also is hoping to raise money to build a playground, she said.
“This Boys and Girls Club was founded, I believe, on the hopes and prayers of our community,” Damante said. “We’ve hit some bumps along the way, but we are headed for the stars.”