Blog: Boys and Girls Club selected as charity for Different Makers campaign (03/10/23)


Helping others in our community is at the heart of the Daily American Republic’s Difference Makers program.

Where there is a need, someone usually finds a way to find a solution. This “never say no” attitude is what keeps many programs, organizations, and individuals from suffering the fate that handicaps a community.

The DAR is honored to report daily, weekly and monthly on the people making a difference in our small part of the world. And the third Thursday in August is the culmination of our work.

This is the night we honor these volunteers at our Differentiator Banquet at the Black River Coliseum. This year’s event, our fifth, will take place on August 17th.

The event is also the newspaper’s opportunity to raise money for a local non-profit organization. In the past we have raised money for United Gospel Rescue Mission, The Bread Shed, FosterAdopt Connect and Haven House. In total, we donated nearly $25,000 to these organizations.

This year’s Difference Makers charity is the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland. The organization reaches hundreds of young people in our region every year.

BGC began serving our community in 2000 and has grown from two school-based campuses with 60 members to nine campuses in Poplar Bluff and Neelyville.

“BGC focuses on academics, healthy living, good character and citizenship. BGC fosters positive relationships with adults, provides opportunities for new experiences and a place to make new friends, and an environment where children can learn and play safely outside of school,” explains Terri McCormick, who serves as Development Manager and Treasury Officer , explained.

“We started with 25 members in 2000 and slowly increased our membership over the next five years. In 2005 we had 200 members. In 2012 we opened “school based” websites and increased our subscription to 425. We currently have 723 enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club of the Heartland,” she said.

Chris Rushin serves as BGC’s Chief Executive Officer and looks forward to the Differential Makers program which highlights what the club is doing.

“We are honored to have been selected as a recipient of the charity DAR’s Difference Makers. This blessing is another opportunity for our team of more than 85 professionals to highlight the incredible children we serve every day,” said Rushin.

BGC Executive Unit Director Robbie Toth-Cosby said many of the youngsters who enroll in the club’s programs are shy. They also come from many different backgrounds. Watching them grow is one of the many perks of the job.

“As soon as young people meet the employees, they come out of their shells and show us who they really are. As staff, we can watch members grow and excel in both academic and life situations. They bond and create meaningful relationships with other youth as well as with staff,” Toth-Cosby explained.

“Once members graduate high school, many choose to work for the Boys & Girls Club while they go to college. When they move away, many come to visit when they return to town. Knowing that we are providing a positive and safe environment for youth in the community and giving them opportunities they may not get when they go home after school is why we do what we do.”

The BGC is open at nine locations in Butler County, including Neelyville.

“In the 2023/24 school year we are considering opening a HUB in Malden. This side would den Malden, Campbell,

Holcomb, Clarkton, Gideon, Risco and Bernie school districts,” McCormick said.

She added that the move could potentially help reach more than 150 additional students.

Rushin shared some good news with the Poplar Bluff RI School Board last month. The BGC is in the process of putting together plans to build a youth center on the school district property adjacent to the Senior High School.

Rushin shared his vision for a 40,000-square-foot facility on the hill behind the baseball field to expand educational, professional and social development opportunities for teens in Poplar Bluff and throughout Southeast Missouri.

All construction costs, which Rushin estimated at about $10 million, would be borne by the Boys & Girls Club, and should the center ever close, both the building and land would revert to school district ownership.

Rushin said he has already received $2 million in government grants along with another $1 million from private interest groups, as well as a pledge for the cost of the preliminary ground clearance.

He stated his intention to pay for the facility through fundraising rather than financing.

“BGC has never had a home of its own. For 23 years, we have relied on the generosity of our most important partner, the Poplar Bluff RI School District,” said McCormick.

“A generation of children has been relegated to using vacant spaces or common classrooms such as music, art and computer rooms for after-school enrichment programs. After more than two decades of service to thousands of children and even more success stories, BGC has proven its worth and value in the future of our region.”

BGC also offers free college courses for sophomores through seniors through its Bright Futures program.

Visit the website for more information on all programs.

To raise additional funds for the BGC, the DAR is donating a portion of each subscription sold between now and August 17th to the program. The BGC also receives a portion of the funds generated by the Difference Makers campaign. The final donation will be announced and presented at the Difference Makers Banquet on August 17th.

To help with this fundraiser, please contact someone at BGC or DAR.

Chris is the Editor of The Daily American Republic and can be reached at

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