Celebrating 75 years: Boys and Girls Club helping local youths since 1944

Rene Azcanio, left, and Diamond Johnson are high school students who attend the Boys and Girls Club after school every week.

For the past 75 years, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida has been serving the community, helping children between the ages of 6 and 18 every year.

There are 31 clubs spread throughout Central Florida, including Brevard, Nassau, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

Established in 1944, the club is celebrating its 75th birthday.

“The Boys and Girls Club is what I call my home away from home,” said Gary Cain, CEO of the club, “I have been part of the club for over 40 years, starting off as a member at a young age.”

 The club gave Cain opportunities that he believed he could have not had as a young person growing up.

Not only did the club help him with academics, but it also gave him a sense of compassion and responsibility to become a better citizen and help those around him as well.

Today, Cain manages the club and continues to help the community and its members.

Nicco Palmero runs the Tupperware Brands Branch in Osceola County. He has two older members at the club who take the most participation at the club and help out with everyone in it.

Diamond Johnson  and Rene Azcanio are high school students who attend the club after school every week.

They do their duties every day by getting their schoolwork done and helping the volunteers with the younger children once they are done with their homework.

 “When I first came, I felt that I had nobody to talk to. I was all by myself,” said Diamond Johnson, who has attended the club since seventh grade. “But as I started breaking that shell and making friends, I can definitely call the club my second home.”

Now, a junior in high school, Johnson believes the club has been one of the best things that have happened to her from a very young age.

Helping her with schoolwork, social skills, self-confidence and giving her the second home she never thought she would have.

Rene Azcanio has been part of the club since sixth grade. With working parents, the club was a safe place for him to be, where he could be himself with other kids his age and helping out the younger ones. All while not feeling alone as he would have been if he stayed at home.

“When I arrived at the club I did not know anyone, but it gave me that homey feeling,” said Azcanio. “From my first day at the club I was able to call it my second home.”

According to its mission statement, the Boys and Girls Cub works to “inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”