TARPON SPRINGS – The Tarpon Springs Boys & Girls Club has a fresh coat of paint: lime and turquoise and fuchsia stripes inside the art room, the computer room and the main room. But paint is just the beginning for Club Director Samantha Oliveira.
Oliveira, who graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of South Florida, took over as club director of the Tarpon Springs Boys & Girls Club three months ago, but she’s been working with various Boys & Girls Clubs since graduation. Originally hired for a summer position as a youth development specialist at the Tampa Bay Boys & Girls Club, Oliveira moved from there to the Oldsmar club, which was later closed. Now, she splits her time between the Wood Valley Boys & Girls Club in Clearwater and the Tarpon Springs location.
“I bring a lot of passion,” Oliveira said. “I care about the kids, I care about the club and I want it to succeed.”
Already, Oliveira has instituted what she calls “kindness stars,” in which children are given a star for sharing an example of their acts of kindness. The child with the most stars at the end of each week is named the youth of the week.
“We’re working on compassion with these kindness stars,” Oliveira said. “A lot of these kids needed to be more open to put themselves in each others’ shoes.”
Oliveira also has plans for improving the structure of the Boys & Girls Club beyond the new paint. Over time, she said, she plans to install a garden and a playground on the premises. She also hopes to begin a basketball league to draw more people to Tarpon Springs.
“My biggest struggle so far has been making sure people know we’re here,” Oliveira said. “There’s even a rumor going around that we’re closed. But we’re not. We’re here and we’re looking to move forward.”
The Tarpon Springs Boys & Girls Club, located at 111 W. Lime St., Tarpon Springs, is open from 2 to 6 p.m. during the school year. Children between the ages of 5 and 13 years old are welcome at the club. Membership fees are $25 annually and monthly fees for the Boys & Girls Club are $150 per child, although scholarships are available.
The club will host an open house on Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. for anyone interested in joining.
For more information on registering or volunteering, call Samantha Oliveira at 727-937-6837 or email her at email@example.com.