An old advertising campaign from the 1960s came to mind Thursday morning as people gathered at the Boys & Girls Club to celebrate the organization’s 20th year in Zebulon.
“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
The crowd of more than 60 students, parents and community leaders who gathered in the club’s main room heard about the group’s inauspicious start in 1997 shuttling between the library and the gymnasium at Zebulon Middle School to clear the way for school functions.
Today, the club operates in a large building constructed for the purpose of serving as a Boys & Girls Club. The Zebulon club also boasts an average daily attendance of 200 members, making it the largest of the seven Boys & Girls Clubs that make up the Wake County Boys & Girls Club system.
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Zebulon Mayor Pro Tem Don Bumgarner said the idea of starting the club came from a group of people who had to decide whether to pursue a Boys & Girls Club or a YMCA. That group, the town’s newly-formed Community Relations Committee, settled on trying to establish a Boys & Girls Club.
“It took a while, but we got it started,” Bumgarner said. And, Bumgarner noted that the next 20 years could bring even more growth for the club. “We expect to grow by about 2,800 residences in the next 10 years. Experts say you can expect 2.5 people in everyone of those homes. That’s 7,000 people. If you don’t think that’s going to impact this community, you’re wrong,” Bumgarner said.
Mike Weeks, a member of the organization’s advisory council who has been an active volunteer and supporter of the club since its inception, recalled moving the club’s operation from one part of Zebulon Middle School to another before the school system donated a modular unit for the club to use.
“We were in that modular unit for 11 years before we built this beautiful facility in 2012,” Weeks said. “We’ve always enjoyed the support of parents, residents and, especially, the Town of Zebulon,” Weeks said.
Ralph Capps, the President of Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs, praised the Zebulon organization for its efforts. “You all are the largest of any of the clubs in our organization. That’s remarkable considering this is also the newest club we have,” Capps said. He noted that several students from the Zebulon club have won recognition in club-sponsored activities and in the competition for Wake Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year.