Since it began in 2015, this "don't miss" event has helped the Boys & Girls Club offer Hancock County children a wholesome and nurturing place to learn – and much, much more.
- by Maurice Singleton
- photos by Brenda Comer
“This is by far our biggest fundraiser,” said board member and assistant Taste of the Future chair Alexander Treutel. “It goes a long way toward helping this unit the rest of the year.”
Click here to see the Shoofly's photo album of the 2019 event, by Brenda Comer
The support of local businesses has already guaranteed that this year’s event will be the most successful from a fundraising standpoint, because the amount raised through business sponsorships has already surpassed the money raised in any of the previous years.
Businesses may support Taste of the Future as a $500 sponsor (gold level), a $250 sponsor (silver level), or as a $100 sponsor (bronze level). Restaurants are asked to provide a favorite dish that will feed 150 people. [Find info on how to participate at the end of this article].
“The restaurants and local businesses have been very involved,” Treutel added. “They have been incredible. It has been fantastic to see.”
The real beneficiaries of the Taste of the Future event are the 200 area students who, with the support of the Boys & Girls Club, have a safe and nurturing place to go after school to interact with their peers in a wholesome atmosphere.
Crystal Scretching has been the board chair of The Boys & Girls Club Gulf Coast - Hancock County Unit (BGCGC-HU) since 2018, during which time Taste of the Future has grown into a dance and dinner affair.
“To work with someone like Crystal (Scretching) is incredible,” said Treutel. “I’ve known her since 2014. She’s extremely passionate about anything she does.”
“Over the past several years we’ve grown the board, and now we have one of the most thriving units on the Gulf Coast,” said Scretching. “We have a fantastic board.”
Scretching explained that the board has formed many community partnerships in recent years that have helped make the program extremely dynamic. In part, that’s because the organization has made a concerted effort to dispel misconceptions about the Boys & Girls Club and demonstrate the many opportunities it offers to children from all walks of life.
“[The organization] is more than a glorified babysitter spot or a place for low-income kids who need help,” Scretching said. “We offer character development programs and leadership training, risk-factor behavior programs, STEM programs, and fun things like dance lessons and book clubs.”
The board regularly invites key community members and local leaders for open houses, where they can tour the facility. That has helped the Hancock Unit develop long-standing relationships with government officials and “people who make the community.”
Scretching points to her own son as an example of how children with supportive families benefit from the Boys & Girls Club. He became a club member in kindergarten and is now eleven years old and helping tutor younger children.
“As an only child, it’s really helped him socialize – it’s a breath of fresh air,” said Scretching. “The club also provides stability with caring adults. It’s become his second home.”
The fact that the club is based in the former Valena C. Jones school is especially meaningful to Scretching. Her father attended school there as a child and walked the same hallways as her son does now. “I grew up in Bay St. Louis, like my father did. I didn’t have the kinds of opportunities we’re offering now through the club. Everything we’re doing is funneling energy back into our biggest legacy – our children.
“Our unit is very open about new programs too,” Scretching continued. “I tell everyone with an idea that involves the enrichment of children’s lives to bring it to our board.”
The Taste of the Future event may be a fundraiser, but it’s also a showcase of the community partnerships the organization has built through the years.
The event takes place Friday, November 4 from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Guests are invited to “come as you are” to enjoy a fun evening of dancing, a cash bar and a silent auction. Individual tickets may be purchased for $25 at https://www.bgcgc.org/TOTF.
Businesses or restaurants that would like to participate as sponsors should contact Crystal Scretching at (228)216-4595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Every time we do something with the club, it lights me up,” said Scretching. “That lets me know that this is what life is all about.”
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