Steak dinner raises funds for Boy & Girls Club

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The play on words attracts attention &8212; &8220;Stake your claim in the future of our youth when you claim your steak!&8221;

Jennifer Ogden is dedicated to be sure the words not only attract attention but also participants in the annual Steak & Stake banquet honoring members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Miss-Lou.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, patrons and members of the clubs will share steak dinners, with tables arranged so that adults and children are seated in equal number at the tables in the Natchez Convention Center, where the event will begin with a silent auction at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.

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Ogden, chairman of the event, is passionate about the program of the Boys and Girls Clubs and has donated time and talent. During the summer she led a performing arts camp for the clubs. She was hooked.

&8220;I began to read more about the clubs,&8221; she said. &8220;It seems to me the best way we can help the kids to develop well-rounded images of themselves.&8221;

Ogden said the teaching and mentoring that happens every day at the clubs is a reminder that most people, when children, received a hand from an adult. It was true for her.

&8220;This is an opportunity to give back. I feel I have been given an enormous gift to be able to do this,&8221; she said.

The steak and stake event is a chance for community leaders and others in the area to interact with the boys and girls and offer support, encouragement and inspiration,&8221; she said.

&8220;The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Miss-Lou was founded five years ago by a group of concerned community leaders who saw the need to develop services for our community&8217;s young people, particularly for those from disadvantaged circumstances,&8221; she said.

&8220;But to me, the entire community is served and strengthened when its youth, all youth, are given opportunities to learn and grow and to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.

&8220;The stronger and healthier, in every way, all our children are, the stronger and healthier our community can become,&8221; said Ogden, a Natchez native who divides her time between homes in her hometown and in Los Angeles.

A donation of $100 pays for a steak dinner for the donor and one child. It also buys a stake in the future of the children in the community, Ogden said.

In addition to individual donations, corporate donations are available &8212; an opportunity to give big, she said.

They are:

Platinum donor, $2,000, purchases a full page in the ad book and 10 dinners.

Gold, $1,000, purchases a full page in the ad book and six dinners.

Silver, $500, purchases a half page in the ad book and four dinners.

Bronze, $250, purchases half page in the ad book and one dinner.

The steak dinner honors Boys and Girls Clubs members who have outstanding records during the past year in making positive attitude changes, raising their academic levels, improving school attendance, performing community service and showing leadership.

Natchez Mayor Phillip West was among the core group to organize the club, said the hard work and long hours have paid off.

&8220;It started off as one club and now it&8217;s three or four units,&8221; West said. &8220;It started out with hundreds of boys and girls and now there are thousands. It has impacted so many lives.&8221;

West said research and statistics show that Boys and Girls clubs have a direct impact on protecting children and youth from harmful societal influences.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education has released information about the importance of providing supervision of children in the after-school hours.

&8220;Each weekday afternoon in America, the ringing of the bell signals not just the end of the school day, but the beginning of a time when at least 8 million of our children are left alone and unsupervised,&8221; the report reads.

&8220;Instead of being a time of growth and opportunity for these children, the hours immediately following the school day are their most dangerous &8230; (or) simply a period of idle and wasted time, when opportunities to be mentored and academically challenged are squandered.&8221;

West named some of the key organizers with him as John Hudson, Margaret Weed, Lillie Sanders, John Ball, Tommy O&8217;Beirne, Page Ogden and Thomas &8220;Boo&8221; Campbell.

Ogden added the Rev. Leroy White, Thelma Angelety, Pat Biglane and Darryl Grennell, among others.

West said hiring Faye Minor as administrator of the Boys and Girls Clubs was one of the best moves the steering committee made.

&8220;She has been wonderful. We couldn&8217;t have done it without her. She has done a tremendous job,&8221; West said.

Volunteers are essential, he said. &8220;But having that main administrator on staff on a daily basis seeing that things get done has been very important.&8221;

Statistics show the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Miss-Lou now provides services for 3,200 members and about 200 at-risk children, with a staff of 82 and 40 teachers.

Children involved in the clubs have opportunities to participate in five different programs. They are in areas of education, character and leadership skills, health and life skills, the arts and fitness, sports and recreation.