I remember my grandmotherís smell when she hugged me. I remember my fourth grade teacherís quiet smile. I remember church choir directorís patience teaching us new music. When you think about a special childhood memory, it is likely that it wasnít a specific event, activity, class or program that you remember with fondness. It is likely that you remember people. It is likely that you were touched with meaningful relationships with your family, friends, teachers or coaches. When we ask an alumni of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen what impacted them the most, they donít name a program or state of the art facility and equipment. They talk about staff, coaches or volunteers that made the difference in their lives.

Research tells us that a relationship with a caring adult works to prevent juvenile delinquency of all types. Youth and teens need caring adults vitally involved in their lives in order to become productive, caring and responsible citizens. Thatís our mission. The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen served 12,705 youth members in 2008 at 14 different sites.

With lagging graduation rates and the temptations of juvenile crime in our community, we know the life-changing power of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen and sister organizations is vitally needed. We want every youth to have at least one caring adult committed to their success which will result in them staying alcohol and drug free, staying gang free, staying in school, graduating and pursuing a post secondary goal.

Cassie Montalvo, unit director for our club services at Quest Academy of IDEA Public Schools, relates this story of a community mentor visiting the girls she is impacting. ďYesterday for the first time one of our community mentors came to visit two of her mentees. The girls had a blast! I received a phone call from one parent telling me how excited her daughter was all afternoon, and that for the first time she didnít have to get after her about doing her homework! It was a very positive day! The other girlsí mother had the opportunity to meet the mentor. They even sat and talked awhile. As they were leaving, both mother and daughter had big smiles on their faces. It made me so happy to see this type of outcome, because those two girls kept wondering when someone was going to choose them and come to see them!Ē

Iím struck at how simple it is to make a difference. Sharing time and attention is all that is required for our often attention starved youth. Itís not easy managing a non profit, especially during difficult economic times, especially when the mission is so critical. If a local youth agency fails, there are no severance packages, no bonuses and no bailouts. We cannot let children be left out of the social agenda despite our adult hardships. Of course, money will help, but real solutions come in many forms. Time, compassion and attention can make the simple difference in childrenís lives.

To change lives in tough economic times, takes you! Explore the possibility of volunteering and join the conversations that impact youth by logging onto our new Web site, www.begreatmcallen.org. If you are an alumni of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, please log onto the ďalumniĒ tab and take a short survey.

Laura Reagan-Porras is a sociologist and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. She can be reached for question or comments at lreagan_porras@bgcmcallen.org or 956-682-5791