My name is Theresa West, but the kids call me “Mama T.” I’ve learned how important it is to give back to the kids, and afterschool programs at the Boys and Girls Club help me do that. The Boys and Girls Club in Lakeland, Florida helped me and my kids out when we had nothing and were struggling to get by.The Club gave me clothing and food when my children and I needed it most, and the help that they gave me lit a spark that made me want to give back.
I got involved in the club six years ago. I was working at a furniture store and a feeling came over me that I couldn’t shake for three days. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, so I walked to my car and let the feeling guide me. It led me to the Boys and Girls Club. I saw Mr. Mike Taylor sitting outside and said “I’ve been led here and I’m not sure why.” Mr. Mike said there was nothing for me to do at the Club at that time, so I left, confused about what was drawing me there. I went straight to a dollar store and got a job almost immediately, but I still couldn’t get rid of the feeling that was following me around. I went to my Pastor, Walter Jenkins, at the City of Refuge Church, and I told him about this feeling that I couldn’t shake. He told me to pray on it and that God would work it out for me eventually.
Three days later, Mr. Mike called me and said that he had a job for me at the Boys and Girls Club. I couldn’t believe that all this time something inside was me urging me to go to this place and now it was coming to me! As I walked up the steps to go into the building on my first day I said “Lord protect me and bless this building,” and we must have been blessed because the Boys and Girls Club has had nothing but good luck since then.
I’ve been lucky to have touched the lives of so many children. The Club is smack in the middle of an area that has seen a lot of violence and drugs. I know that since I’ve been working here at the Boys and Girls Club, the drop in violence has been incredible. My involvement in the community has helped these kids stay out of trouble. I’ve started a group for youth called Keystone, which gives teenagers a place to talk with each other about troubles that they are having at home and at school. We feed the homeless, do a “say no to drugs walk” and take our younger and older kids on special trips.
I’ve learned a lot in my years helping at the Boys and Girls Club. I had a hard life growing up and I never had the things that these kids have now. I’m so happy to be helping these children. Kids are our future and we have to help them and guide them. I now know that when I follow the feeling in my heart I can do no wrong.