Director has a way with kids

November 24, 1997

Director has a way with kids


Staff Writer

Jim Deaner likes to tell "his kiddies" at the Boys and Girls Club that each gray hair in his salt-and-pepper beard is named after one of them.

"This is Eric," he said, yanking on a chin hair. He rubbed the other side of his chin and said, "this patch over here is Justin."

But Deaner isn't angry at them. He's smiling the whole time.

Maybe he knows that he wouldn't be prematurely gray if he didn't care so much.

Deaner recently received national recognition for his dedication as executive director of the Washington County club for the last 17 years.


Deaner, 45, was the first person to receive the A.D. Mangini Award for Creativity in Core Programming, given in honor of one of the national club's most influential people.

Deaner didn't always have a beard. On his first day at the club, he was clean-shaven and wearing a three-piece suit.

"I soon learned that's not what my job is here. This is better for the kiddies," he said of his casual khaki pants and navy shirt. "They shy away from shirts and ties."

It's easier for them to see Deaner as a friend, brother or in some cases even a father figure, said Sherry Brown, director of development.

"His door is always open. He'll do anything to keep those kids out of trouble," Brown said.

Under his watch, the club has grown from 155 regulars to more than 2,000 who come in three times a week.

Some days it gets crowded at the club's Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, where children are bused in from all over the city.

Deaner wants to expand, but not at that location. His vision is to open smaller clubs in public housing complexes like Noland Village and Westview so parents can become more involved.

It's already working at Frederick Manor, where a satellite club opened nearly a year ago.

It's not easy to explain the success of the Boys and Girls Club, Deaner said.

Children seem to like the activities, ranging from computer educational games and homework to sports like basketball and weightlifting, he said.

Deaner even started a unique rock climbing program because of his own love for the sport.

The children have a sense that the club belongs to them, he said.

Those who can't afford the $5 membership fee earn it by tutoring younger children, acting as referees or making copies for the club's office.

Their involvement earns them points, which they redeem for trips to major sporting events.

"For a lot of my kids, this is home," he said.

They walk freely into his office, plop down in his big chair and put their feet up on his desk. He sits on a nearby love seat and mostly just listens to them.

"Some of them break your heart every day and others give you that warm feeling every day," he said.

One boy that he thought wouldn't make it out of elementary school is now a 4.0 student at Frostburg State University, he said.

Deaner has been there long enough to see the children of his former "kiddies" become members.

"He's one of those people that is going to stick in the minds and hearts of a lot of these kids," Brown said.

The need for such Boys and Girls clubs is increasing.

Since 1970, the percentage of children whose parents aren't supervising them full time has risen from 37 percent to 57 percent, according to the club.

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