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Local Boys and Girls Club founders honored for their work

Story by Chris Graham

I remember the Waynesboro Boys and Girls Club back when it was a building that Frank Lucente was trying to get donated and a few metal folding chairs.
It’s come a long way in the 10-plus years since – now operating centers in Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County and providing a positive place for learning for hundreds of area children daily and weekly.
“This absolutely ranks at the top for me,” said Lucente, the local club’s founder, sitting in the club that he helped bring to life before the hustle and bustle of another afterschool afternoon.

Lucente,  who was recently honored by Boys and Girls Clubs of America with a National Award of Merit along with another club pioneer, Jill Clark, has accomplished more than his fair share in life – serving on Waynesboro City Council, starting a successful hot-dog franchise, Sam’s Hot Dogs – but the local Boys and Girls Club has a special place in his heart.

“When the club first started, we did have our difficulties,” Lucente said in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show.” “I was first told if I quit, or something happened to me, the club would fold up. Which really horrified me. So my goal in this whole endeavor was to form a Boys and Girls Club, contribute to it and help it prosper to become part of the town and accepted by the town as part of the community, somewhat like the Y. And at that point, I would be able to walk away, and when I do croak, which eventually I will, that the club would go on.

“That was my goal, and I really am proud to say that I’m not involved in the day-to-day or even on the board anymore. I’m asked every once in a while to raise a little bit of money. But if I wasn’t here, this club is solid, and it’s part of the community, and as you know, everybody wants to be affiliated with it. Everybody talks about helping the Boys and Girls Club,” Lucente said.

It is nice to be recognized by the national club, Clark said in an interview for “The Augusta Free Press Show.” But “you don’t do it for the awards.”

“So many of our goals are measurable, but a lot aren’t,” Clark said. “If you have kept a child from getting pregnant, if you have helped a child pass a grade – that’s more measurable. But when the DuPont Credit Union came in and did a part on finance, I thought, Wow, that is a life skill. Just as the cooking class was – or the computer or the photography.
“You may never know the difference that you made. And that’s OK, too,” Clark said.

The focus for Lucente is on the kids.

“The best thing we can do is give kids confidence. If somebody believes in a child, that can have a tremendous effect on the future of that child. I think that’s what we do here. We give kids confidence, and we let them know that somebody does care about them,” Lucente said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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