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Not For Profit: Savan Boys Club

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March 9, 2008 — Every evening, Saturday through Wednesday, a handful of adults go up to the long, second-floor room of the Romeo Malone Community Center in Savan, and they wait for the boys to come. Inevitably, the boys filter in, and for several hours, they have a wholesome place to spend time with responsible adults, in their sometimes dicey neighborhood.
It's a testament to the will of a handful of community members who saw a need and responded.
"There was a center that was not being utilized, so I asked — what do we need to do to try to get that building and get the kids of the streets with recreational or educational things to do to occupy their time?" said Dorsey Chinnery, who in November 2006 founded the Savan Boys Club with the help of some friends. "We got some people interested in being a part of it and we grouped ourselves together and got some funds together to buy some equipment."
A tall, unassuming man, Chinnery was raised in Savan, a once dignified but now somewhat tarnished neighborhood, with twisty roads and elegant old trees. After returning home in 2005 following 16 years spent as a postal worker in New York City, Chinnery saw a need.
"The kids were just hanging around here with nothing to do. So, it's kind of good getting it off the ground because there's a need for that, a big need for that. It's a lot of work, but it's needed badly," Chinnery said.
He and eight other board members make sure at least some of them are present five nights a week when the club opens its doors from 6 to 8 p.m. And each night, boys between about 8 years old to 18 years old, arrive – perhaps 10 of them, other times close to 30.
Through the diligence of Chinnery and his colleagues, and through donations and support from the likes of Romeo Malone, a community member after whom the center is named, along with FirstBankVI and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands , the club has a bank of computers and offers several programs.
Instructors come in to teach computer skills, Spanish, basic mechanic skills and public speaking. In addition, there's an electronic piano, a pool table and games, and occasionally the boys enjoy field trips. In addition, thanks to a grant from the Department of Human Services, which the board is hoping will be renewed soon, the club has frequently been able to serve the boys dinner.
"We get to play pool. And we get to play computers and dominos, and we get food," reported an enthusiastic 9-year-old, Ashaki Powell, as he aimed his pool cue.
His grandmother, Viusa Powell, sat at a nearby table with fellow board members Patrick Hodge, Smokey Frett, Sonia Archer and Melvin Norman. Powell said the club serves a variety of boys, several of whom would be considered "at risk."
"It's a mixture," said Powell. "But you know in the V.I., most homes are lead by a single mother. And to be honest, we haven't met many of their parents."
The boys must sign in, and cannot leave without signing out. And should they opt to leave before closing, the parents are called and told.
Hodge, a retired schoolteacher, called the club a haven. "Too many young boys are being shot and killed and we have to stop that," he said. "Here they can come and relax rather than be out on the street the whole time."
"My hope and dream," Norman chimed in, "is that other communities will do this kind of thing…otherwise we could lose a generation of kids."
Chinnery looked at the room with boys at computers and at the pool table, and thought out loud, "When I have 30 boys up here, I wonder, where would they be if they weren't right here in front of me? Where would they have been — around the corner throwing rocks?
"But right now they're on the computer, the pool table, on the keyboard… We want to keep them occupied," he said. "Everybody is trying to help us."
At least he hopes they are. Chinnery and his board are currently looking to raise $8,000 for a van, which they've already selected. With it, they can transport the boys to Magens Bay and design regular educational and recreational excursions. But not until they find the wheels. Anyone interested in helping should call Mr. Chinnery at: 513-9253.
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