Boys and Girls Club

A local coalition for a Boys and Girls Club in Wiggins is gaining traction.

Though the addition of a quality youth center has been discussed for years, interest was renewed at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast annual dinner on October 26, 2021.

"We're trying to do this for the community and for the kids," Mayor Darrell Berry said.

Mayor Berry, Alderman Ron Dyal, and local entrepreneurs Shyra Galloway, Danielle Jackson Kinnard, and Jeff Jones were invited to attend the annual dinner earlier this year.

According to the online description, boys and Girls Clubs of America is a national organization of local chapters. The chapters provide voluntary after-school programs for young people.

The official purpose of the organization is to "promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence."

Statewide, the clubs serve over 32,000 children. The closest clubs to Stone County are in Hattiesburg and along the Gulf Coast.

The group discussed the organization's many benefits and programs aimed toward helping youth.

"There are some (children) out there who need a family outside of their family, and I think this would be great," Berry said.

Berry said the organizers at the event shared an interest in helping start the first club for Wiggins.

The main obstacle to establishing one in Stone County is funding.

"It would be a good thing, but it's going to take some financial backing," Berry said. "We don't have the backing that the coast has with the casinos and those types of things."

Early estimates to buy a suitable building were close to $700,000. The building would need to be large enough to accommodate 100 students.

Still, Berry and others think it is worth a try.

Though no official campaign to begin fundraising has been launched, the City of Wiggins has applied for a grant through the National League of Cities' Strong Southern Communities Initiative.

SSCI has funding set aside for cities in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana to invest in youth development and support children and families, according to the program's website.

He said the grant could cover a facility, but the program is highly competitive because Wiggins is up against many other cities with similar needs.

Berry said the grant could supply the city with up to several million in funding. If approved, the city could find out as soon as next spring.

Regardless of the grant's outcome, Berry would like to begin talks to support the program soon.

He sees the potential for a partnership with other clubs along the coast.

"We would like to join forces with them," he said. "Maybe they could give us some ideas on how to raise money and get one started."