“The investment we make in these kids (is) our future,” said Bev Leonard, Eastern Jackson County Boys & Girls Club advisory board chairwoman. Leonard, the club’s staff and board members updated community members on the Eastern Jackson County Boys & Girls Club’s progress in recent months, all the while praising the more than 100 children who utilize the Leslie Unit daily. 

It’s all about the kids.

Even as the children remained in school early Wednesday morning, evidence of their afternoon and evening presence marked the Boys & Girls Club’s Leslie Unit, 315 S. Leslie Ave., in Independence. One bulletin board announced the January birthdays. The art area showcased children’s interpretations on Picasso’s work. Coat hangers are fixated to the walls at different levels for growing children to place their winter garb.

“The investment we make in these kids (is) our future,” said Bev Leonard, Eastern Jackson County Boys & Girls Club advisory board chairwoman. Leonard, the club’s staff and board members updated community members on the Eastern Jackson County Boys & Girls Club’s progress in recent months, all the while praising the more than 100 children who utilize the Leslie Unit daily.  

Leonard, a retired principal at Blue Springs’ Sunny Vale Middle School, said the adults affiliated with Boys & Girls Club live for one goal: To see the club’s children graduate from high school. A majority of the children who attend the Leslie Unit are between ages 5 and 9 and attend the nearby Thomas Hart Benton Elementary School.  

“Those kids that graduate will be successful citizens,” she said, “and they will be the ones that will be taking care of us and our country. Our goal is for every kid to graduate, and we can make a difference.”

As part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, Independence includes two units – one at Leslie and one at Hawthorne, 16995 E. Dover Lane. In December, the nonprofit organization’s partnership with the Missouri Mavericks raised $22,000 – in one evening – at the inaugural Dinner on Ice. 

“One of our challenges here is the fact that we’re one of the best-kept secrets in Independence,” said Rich Baldwin, a Boys & Girls Clubs teen program and outreach specialist in Independence. “People are aware of the Boys and Girls Club nationally, but they don’t know that we’re here. We’re working hard to change that.”

In less than three months – April 12-16 – the units may expect significant changes with the Community of Christ 2010 World Conference’s extreme makeover service project. About 300 to 400 volunteers are expected, and about $10,000 is needed to purchase paint and other materials for the renovation, according to club officials.

Contact Tom Cochran at conferencemakeoverproject@centralmission.org or call 816-595-1737 for more information.  

“What we do is really ministry by another name, to the least of things. We are a team,” Baldwin said. “It’s not about any of us. It’s all about the kids.”