The mission of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Alabama is to provide facilities, programs, and leadership that motivate all youth to reach their full potential in accordance with Judeo-Christian principles.
More than 100 years ago, Birmingham was a bustling hub of manufacturing and commercial activity forged in the rough and tumble world of the iron and steel furnaces that dotted the landscape of the Jones Valley.After working a long day at the furnace, the men would congregate at the saloons to relax. Newsboys, eager to get their hands on some of the spare wages of the workers, would loiter near the saloons, selling newspapers, gum, cigars and cigarettes. It was only a matter of time before they ended up inside the saloons. This concerned a group of women who decided that something better was needed for those boys.
These women came together in 1901 to address the problem at a Christmas dinner given for the boysby Judge William R. Houghton. He and the women were joined in their efforts by another Judge, N.B. Feagin, and by Colonel Rufus Rhodes, publisher of The Birmingham News. Together, they founded the Birmingham Boys Club to offer a helping hand in the form of a hot meal, a bath, and an opportunity to just be a boy. The Club was first located in two rooms of the old Birmingham City Hall and later expanded to include a dormitory, employment bureau, playground in the downtown area, a summer camp, and a big brother program for orphans.
In 1906 delegates from the Birmingham Boys Club traveled to Boston to meet with representatives from 51 other Clubs around the country to form the Federation of Boys Clubs, which has grown over the years to represent hundreds of local organizations as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. A number of vacant stores and unoccupied homes were used to house the Club until 1924 when two prominent Birmingham businessmen challenged the Birmingham Kiwanis Club to construct a permanent building for the organization.
By the 1950s, the continued growth of the organization had outpaced its facilities. A new wing, the Charles L. Gaines addition was completed in 1959 and allowed the staff to serve more boys with an expanded scope of activities. A steering committee was appointed that same year to explore the possibilities of acquiring a new site for the camp. An excellent spot was located on Smith Lake in Walker County, and Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Goodwin very generously donated the 67 acres to the Boys Club for the new facility. Camp Jimmy Goodwin was completed in 1960, and shortly afterwards welcomed its first campers to the facility.In the early 1970s, change was again in the wind for the organization. The Alabama State Highway Department bought the old Boys Club building downtown to make room for the construction of the Red Mountain Expressway. Elton B. Stephens, Sr. stepped forward to donate a site and construction materials for a new facility in the Central Park area.
Since 1940, the Club had been successfully led by its director, Herbert "Mr. Pete" Peterson. In 1980, he handed over his post to Thomas "Coach" W. Cleckler and his wife "Mrs. C." Coach. Mrs. C realized that Birmingham in the 1980s was too large for a single facility to service its youth. As 1990 apporached, the Club was growing by leaps and bounds. The Birmingham Boys Club became the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Alabama, a change that would reflect a new and expanded mission that included service to girls and the greater Birmingham community. At this same time the Club moved its Clubhouse and administrative offices to Hueytown. The 90s saw the footprint of the Club grow from one Club and a Camp to a total of seven Clubs. On May 28, 2013, our Club grew again with the opening of the Tom and Gean Cleckler Teen Center. This opened up a new world of programming opportunities for youth ages 13-18. Members of the Cleckler Teen Center learn healthy lifestyle habits, participate in service projects and concentrating on graduating from high school with a plan for their future.