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'Being the best not good enough' for much-honored Boys & Girls Club

Bob Bell, accepts honor as Founders Circle inductee, as Kevin Lauritsen looks on. Bob Bell, accepts honor as Founders Circle inductee, as Kevin Lauritsen looks on.

Flanked by large signboards listing 77 major state and national awards the Boys & Girls Club has won, Executive Director Kevin Lauritsen declared that being the best is not good enough.

He recalled the conversation a year ago when Tom Fazio learned that the club had a growing waiting list of teenagers and younger children. Fazio, who founded the club along with his wife, Sue, in 1994, would not stand for that. The club’s supporters hatched a plan to build. Construction is now under way on a new gym and more program space.
“This expansion will let everybody in the community know that we are not done,” Lauritsen told club supporters during the annual fundraising dinner Saturday night. Looking at its success, people sometimes say that the club has done its job. Lauritsen and club supporters say no. Not when dozens of kids remain outside the doors, waiting for the same opportunity that has guided club teenagers to state and national recognition over and over.
“Being the best,” he added, “doesn’t mean we are good enough.”
Among the inspired and inspiring leaders that have helped the club become the best was Bob Bell, who was inducted into the club’s Founders Circle.
Bell came to work at the Boys & Girls Club in 1999. Serving for the next 15 years as the club’s Teen Director, Bell worked days, nights, weekends and overnights.
“The job description included teacher, guide, repairman, construction foreman, trip adviser, cheerleader, disciplinarian and more,” Lauritsen said.
Bell created the Enterprise Job Prep Program, a program in which Boys & Girls club members become part-time employees.
“Enterprise has been honored as best career development program among North Carolina Boys & Girls Clubs, and has been featured at the national conference of Boys & Girls Clubs of America,” Lauritsen said.
The energetic Bell was a geyser of ideas, sometimes testing Lauritsen’s boundaries.
“Always searching for and striving to achieve ‘world class,’ he and I had long and vigorous discussions — some would say arguments — about what ‘world class’ meant,” the director said. “He is a man of ideas, producing dozens at a time. My job was often to rein him in — taking many, many ideas and choosing the ones that seemed to make the most sense for our kids inside these walls. He pushed out; I pulled in — the yin, the yang — making each of us and our Boys & Girls Club better.”
During his time leading the teenage programs, eight club members earned state Youth of the Year and two more made runner-up. “Most important, all of our youth started graduating from high school and going on to more education,” he said.
Bell’s financial giving to the club, nearly half a million dollars, targeted gaps he knew first-hand from the inside. Although retired from the club, Bell continues to support it, helping to lead the robotics program and in other ways.
Average daily attendance at the club is 318, which is at capacity. For an inclusive fee of $5 a year, they get homework help, mentoring, a healthy after-school snack, sports, art and other activities. Seventy-one percent of club members achieve the A/B honor roll in school; 100 percent graduate from high school.
“He is the most positive and optimistic person we know,” Lauritsen said. “He often says that it is no accident that all of us converged on this club at this time – we were meant to be together making special things happen.”