"I was a little surprised," said Gambill, a Cartersville resident who has served on the local board for about three years. "I did not expect it. Being that there's a lot of people on the board that I look up to that had been involved longer than I have, I felt kind of unworthy, if you will. But it really was special.
"I have really enjoyed being involved with the club ... working with the Century [bicycle ride], which is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and helping to staff that and then all the other projects we've done over the past couple of years that I've [assisted]. It means a lot to me that I've been recognized for this award."
Since serving on the board, Gambill said he has become more aware of the need for an organization, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, to help foster Bartow's youth.
"We're serving a lot of kids, and we're keeping a lot of kids occupied and engaged in things that are helping them to be successful in life and to further their education and to further their athletic skills and any of the other things that we work on them with at the clubs," Gambill said. "So there's a huge need in the community. We're very good at what we do. Maybe we're not necessarily a residential home for kids, but we're very good doing what we do, which is after-school programs [and] summer programs and taking care of the kids that we serve.
"So even though we do have a tremendous amount of kids that we serve, there's still a lot of other kids out there that we don't get to. So that's part of what we're working on as a board is identifying areas for growth, and we've talked about starting a club in Emerson. We've got the club in Cartersville and Adairsville but we want to continue to grow, so that we can serve as many kids in our county as possible."
For Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, the decision to nominate Gambill for the state award was a no-brainer.
"We go through a process of identification and recruitment of board members, and it's a pretty detailed process and matrix," Gilley said. "And after he went through this orientation and information period, he enthusiastically agreed to do it and literally from the moment he got involved, he got involved. I'm talking about all facets of the club and promotion of the club.
"He and his wife, Danae, personally have become very involved, just dynamic in all [areas, such as] resource development, operations [and] legislatively he's been a big advocate for the club and the movement on a statewide level. ... Our resource development campaign is multiple tiers, individuals, special events, and he honestly, across the board, has shown an interest in becoming involved in doing all facets of that. Another area he's great at is board orientation. We have a selection process, it's pretty detailed honestly, and he's always looking for ways to better that whole process."
Opened in May 1990 at the Goodyear Clubhouse in the Atco community, the local offering became the first chartered club in the nation to reach out to boys and girls with the name of its organization. The temporary location drew 110 children in its first week and 400 by the end of the year, compared to its current total membership of about 800.
Today, the organization features two locations -- 642 Henderson St. in Cartersville and 127 King St. in Adairsville -- and serves more than 400 children a day with its summer program. During the school year and the summer, the units offer youth ages 6 to 18 supplemental education and activities like arts and crafts, basketball and board games.
"For most of our kids, it's the only viable service option they have, whether it's [during the] school year [or] summer," Gilley said. "And we are so fortunate to have so many strong partners and such a strong board that our program is [thriving]. The after-school [program] is focused on supplemental education. This summer we'll have some fun, and we'll do some education but it's [primarily] fun, fun, fun, fun.
"We also have the food program this summer where we'll serve probably in excess of 75,000 meals," he said, referring to the Summer Nutrition Program operated by Cartersville City Schools.
Citing the club members' high school graduation rate, Gilley said the organization is helping youth excel academically.
"Our alumni and our teens are staying and finishing high school at a rate of about 94 percent," Gilley said. "And about another third of those, about 35 percent, do some type of post high school study, whether it's traditional college [or] Chattahoochee Tech [and] Georgia Highlands, where they're learning a specific skill."