The Boys and Girls Clubs of America believe that all youth deserve a fun, safe place to call their own, where they can learn and grow while having fun.

That belief is shared by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Carter County, the local organization which provides an annual summer program.

With school out for summer, dozens of youth visit the Teen Town in Wilson Tuesday through Friday, participating in arts and crafts, lessons, fields trips, service activities and making new friends.

“So many of the kids tell us they like to come here to hang out,” says Amy Miller, unit director of Teen Town. “They could be at home alone or they could be here meeting kids from different schools and hanging out with people they never would have met.”

This month, youth have turned to the club for a place to go, and club staff have stood ready to offer fun and activities. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Carter County provides an after-school program throughout the school year, and switch gears in the summer to provide a similar program, still focused on the mission “to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential.”

To achieve its mission, this year’s summer camp program has been filled with service opportunities, such as club members volunteering at the Ardmore Animal Shelter and the food pantry in Wilson.

The club strives to offer members a chance to experience new things, and has field trips planned for an afternoon of learning the sport of gymnastics at Kippers Gymnastics in Ardmore, a trip to the galleries at the Goddard Center and some swimming time at the Wilson pool. Also, the club is hosting a baby-sitting class that will teach pre-teens and teenagers safety tips, CPR, child care and more to get them ready to baby-sit in their neighborhoods.

Additionally, the Ardmore Tiger unit at the H.F.V. Wilson Community Center has made the trip once this summer to the Teen Town unit in Wilson. Club members from both units had the chance to meet, interact, play games and enjoy crafts.

Youth are encouraged daily to participate in a craft. Miller instructs the session and helps the youth make all sorts of projects, including jewelry, drawing and making homemade clay.

Youths can also engage in any of the activities at the club house, which include billiards, air hockey, board games, video games and computer time.

Miller said this summer staff have seen a lot of new faces to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Carter County summer program. Most new members come because they have heard about the club through friends.

One new member is Lydia Hernandez, who lives in Wilson.

“I just started coming because I heard it was fun,” Hernandez said. “I come on days when I can, and I have made a lot of new friends.”

Two-year club member Tucker Welch says she enjoys the leadership opportunities through the Boys and Girls Clubs and the service to the community, like the time the club raised money to purchase a karaoke machine for a nearby nursing home.

“I like that all my friends go here,” said Welch, of Wilson. “We can all come here and play on the PlayStation. I’ve also learned about helping other people, and it has been a good experience.”