Forrest Parker credits the organization he helped to establish in Fredericksburg 16 years ago for saving his life when he was a youth.
“If it weren’t for the Boys & Girls Club growing up, I would have been destined to be part of the system,” said Parker, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Rappahannock Region.
Since 2001, Parker has been at the helm of the Boys & Girls Club in Fredericksburg, which operates out of the old Walker-Grant School. Parker didn’t intend to become the executive director, but he answered the call and loves what he does. The club, which was under the guidance of The Boys & Girls Clubs Greater Washington, selected Parker to head its steering committee to explore Fredericksburg as a potential location for expansion.
Under the care and guidance of Parker, the club has developed programs to help children build a solid foundation. Its Passport to Manhood is one Parker is especially proud of. The club partners with local fraternities to work with boys ages 11-15 develop specific aspects of character and manhood through interactive activities. There’s a Life Skills program that educates children about decision-making and a Money Matters program that encourages wise financial decisions. They also work with Smart Girls. Every initiative spearheaded by the club is focused on helping keep young people with self-improvement and steer them away from environmental factors that could negatively impact their future.
“We serve about 100 kids per day from kindergarten through Twelfth grade from 3 to 7 p.m.,” said Parker. “Research has indicated that is the time when most of our young people make bad decisions. So we need programs like ours to fill that gap for young people to learn thrive and grow.”
Parker wants to see a boost in community involvement to ensuring that the club—which requires $1,000 per day to do its work—can help more young people have successful outcomes.
“We need more volunteers who can come in and implement programs, mentor our kids, provide support and of course, we want new innovative board members who want to be actively engaged in our activities and help raise money to keep our doors open,” he said. “Our mission is to serve those who need us most. We’re open to all kids, even kids in the suburbs with two parents. We are here to provide a support base.”