Freddy Williams has lived the motto of his beloved Boys & Girls Clubs: “Great Futures Start Here.”
As a child, membership in his club in Panama City provided him a safety net and motivation, but the experience also gave him a calling. This week, that calling was fulfilled as Williams was named to oversee the Boys & Girls Club across all of Tampa Bay.
On Wednesday, local dignitaries gathered to hear the announcement of a shared services agreement between the Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast, which serves Pinellas County, and the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay, which includes Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
School officials, sheriffs, prominent business leaders and even some local professional athletes and sports team representatives were invited to celebrate the new partnership.
“This agreement enhances efficiency, clarity and staff growth potential, while powerfully leveraging our combined resources,” said Matt Dumar, who serves as chairperson of the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay.
“We can advocate for underserved communities with one powerful combined voice and bring our collaborations with community partners and the business community to scale,” Williams said in a news release. “The Club saved my life as a kid, and it is an incredible honor to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”
Williams told the Tampa Bay Times he was excited about what the new partnership can bring, providing even more opportunities to youth in the bay area to get the skills and support they need to fulfill their potential. Having served as the chief executive officer for the Suncoast club for the last seven years, Williams knew that agreeing to share services meant that programs working in one corner of the community could now be available throughout the region.
“We want to make sure that we are able to provide world class programming across Tampa Bay,” he said. “This allows us to do that.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs have been around for more than 100 years. While the organization has been known for its after-school programs, Williams said there have been new initiatives in recent years including a renewed push to get students to their grade level in reading. With so many of those who work with the clubs also being certified teachers, the push for improved reading skills is a perfect fit, he said.
“We have to teach kids to read so they can read to learn,” Williams said.
Another new focus has been to push job and life skills. These, along with the existing partnerships the Boys & Girls Clubs can help with on-the-job training, internships and mentoring, provide a good work start from the beginning, Williams said. “We can be a great intermediary,” he said.
Williams, who earlier this year was appointed chairperson of the National Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of American Professional Organization, said the satisfaction he gets from doing the work never goes away, and he looks forward to the new challenges.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.