Seeking A Boys And Girls Club

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FARMVILLE — Longwood University sophomores Amelia McConnell, Bharani Sankar and Molly Kabis aren’t from the Farmville area.

However, they have sort of an adopted home. And it is here where they want to bring a Boys and Girls Club to help local youngsters.

“We (Amelia and Molly) were taking a walk one day, actually, up to Kroger…and we saw that Mary E. Branch Community Center, that building, and we were just curious as to what it was and we did some research into it (and) found out that it was a community center that had closed because of funding,” Molly recounted.

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The two, who discussed the idea with Bharani when they returned to the university, were interested in bringing something similar to the community—with the first goal being a Boys and Girls Club.

“I grew up going to them so it was like our inspiration and Molly and Bharani both had similar backgrounds of…community centers and just that constant support and program that they’re a part of and wanted to give that back to the community here,” Amelia told The Herald.

Molly, growing up in Severna Park, Maryland, did a lot of volunteer work back home through her church and National Honor Society (which she says was always a big part of her family and childhood). She helped with a food and toy drive that was mostly run by high school students.

“It was always a ton of fun. I loved doing it, just knowing how much of an impact I was making on somebody else’s life,” said Molly, an exercise science major on a pre-med track and plans to go to medical school and become an orthopedic and sports medicine doctor.

Amelia, an art design major passionate about working with children, grew up in a military family and was always moving. She spent her high school years in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Stuttgart, Germany. There was always a Boys and Girls Club, she says, and as soon as she was old enough to volunteer, she became a soccer coach and helped with camps and such through the Boys and Girls Club Foundation. She also served in an honor society and has worked to help the American Cancer Society and Wounded Warrior program.

So what’s the pleasure in giving?

Molly assesses that they both come from very lucky backgrounds and had great childhoods.

“Especially coming from an area where I’m from to here, you notice the differences…The world is not like where you grew up everywhere, you know, so it’s you want to be able to help the people who don’t have the opportunities that you did because you know how much you benefited from them,” Molly said.

She pauses, then adds, “I think that’s—knowing that how much we can impact in a child’s life and help them in a positive way is what has kept us plugging along in this. Just knowing that we can help somebody so much.”

The best thing you hear in working with youth is when they thank you. And the volunteers also receive from the experience, as well as give.

“I kind of live by…‘God is Love, now go and do the same,’” Amelia says.

Bharani is a Longwood University tennis player who lives in Richmond and volunteers at the children’s cancer wing at a Richmond hospital. Amelia and Molly were roommates last year, Bharani lived on the hall. The three became good friends last year and are still close.

They have learned a lot over the last year about the community they wish to help.

To open a Boys and Girls Club it’ll cost $175,000, which does not include the cost for a director.

But now is the time for baby steps. While they haven’t started with fundraising, at the time of the interview they awaited approval as a new Longwood Club. Then they can partner with the University, have their own bank account and insurance policy.

With that they can work on getting more exposure and recruiting fellow students. What they aim to build is a sustainable system where, as volunteer University students work in the community and graduate, new students join to fill their shoes. They have a couple of professors, Molly cites, that would pitch in.

What they hope to do is to develop a strong tutoring program, having Longwood students trained to assist existing programs.

“We have been working with the New Life Church and schools…tutoring some of their students. So, essentially, what we want to do is prepare Longwood students who are interested to be able to go out to different parts of the community and tutor kids,” Molly said.

It’s a first step, but there’s still that goal.

“We’re not gonna give up,” Amelia said. “We just want to open this club and provide opportunities for Farmville youth.”

That could take time, but they aren’t waiting to strengthen their connection to the community.

“By the time I graduate from Longwood, it’ll be the longest I’ve lived anywhere, so I consider this home,” Amelia says. “And I think, definitely when I start something like this and I know the impact I’ve made on youth in the past, I don’t want to start this promise and give up and walk away from it.”

(To contact the students, email: