Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren has recognized two of its biggest supporters and presented with a few "surprises" in honor of their generosity.

Richard and Helen Hodo, who have given a total of $350,000 to the club over the past five years, were thanked for their long-term support by the BGCVB’s board of directors at a reception Nov. 13 following the monthly board meeting.

Cindy Faldon, executive director, welcomed the Hodos and shared about the impact the pair have had on the organization.

"Richard and Helen have played a key role in the club being able to grow and expand over the last five years," Faldon said. "Their contributions and demonstration of support helped the club secure grants and funding from other sources which allowed for our building expansion and renovation."

In the last five years, the club more than doubled its average daily attendance with more than 200 members participating in the after school and summer programs. Members have the opportunity to take part in a number of mentoring, recreational, art and fitness programs offered each day.

The club also serves an afternoon snack and meal, helping ensure that members stay well-nourished throughout the week. In the summer, BGCVB serves a healthy breakfast and lunch to those in attendance.

At the meeting, the board presented Richard and Helen Hodo with a plaque on behalf of the club and letters from Jim Clark, president of Boys and Girls Club of America, and Robin Schmidt, director of organizational development of BGCA’s Southwest Conference, personally thanking them for their commitment to the club and community.

The Hodos also were awarded pins from BGCA for their induction into the Lifetime Giving Society. The elite group is reserved for donors who give more than $250,000 to boys and girls clubs.

In recognition of the Hodos’ generosity, the board of directors voted to start an endowment for the club. The group agreed to use $5,000 of the Hodos’ gift to establish the endowment, along with a $5,000 matching contribution made personally by the board.

The initial $10,000 combined donation will serve as the founding contribution for the endowment, which the board hopes to continue to build upon through individual donations, bequests and memorial gifts.

Jim Petty, BGCVB board member and president of the BGC Arkansas Area Council, noted that the Hodos were willing to take a "risk" on the club five years ago, when it was starting to shift its focus and expand its services.

"You all were willing to take a risk and invest your hard-earned money into the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren," Petty said. "Because of your support and belief in the club, the organization has grown significantly and been able to benefit hundreds of kids and families in our area. Years from now, long after we are all gone, the legend of Mr. and Mrs. Hodo will live on in the halls of this club."

Richard and Helen Hodo expressed their appreciation for the recognition and explained their reasons for giving.

"We did it for these kids," Richard Hodo said. "We are proud and glad to be able to help … we are proud of how far the club has come and the work being done. But, the need is still here and we intend to keep on giving."

Faldon said she hopes that the Hodos’ generosity will serve as an example to many others in the community as the organization conducts its annual campaign.

Local residents are encouraged to give to the club during the holiday season as part of its "Give the Gift of a Great Future" campaign, she said

"The success of this campaign is vital to the sustainability of the club and the programs we offer," Faldon said. "We have more than 1,100 total members who routinely take part in our after school, summer and sports programs. Our club depends greatly upon private donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations in the community to fund these initiatives. We are asking for the community to support our Club which benefits so many of our local kids. No donation is too small."

A letter and pledge form will be distributed to Van Buren Municipal Utilities customers in the December statements. Donors can also give online by visiting the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren’s website, www.BGCofVB.org.

For more information, call the club at (479) 474-9401.