Kevin Deary • The Good of Goshen

Kevin Deary

President and Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County

Published May 2021

We’re here to protect kids, save kids, help kids, grow kids, keep them in school. We’re here to make sure that they have hope. Every person needs hope.

After I graduated high school, I joined the Navy. I was on the United States Navy Sixth Fleet boxing team. For a year, my only job was boxing. As part of that duty, we had to give back our time. We had to give some of our time working with kids – helping them with homework and also helping them learn boxing, basketball. I realized at a young age that I really enjoyed working with kids. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do this for a living?

I got out of the Navy and I started volunteering at a Boys Club (later Boys & Girls Clubs) and I fell in love with it. I started to work part-time and then I went full-time and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Boys & Girls Clubs are youth development agencies. Kids vote with their feet – they don’t have to be there. We have a very close relationship with all of our school systems; the schools bus all our kids to us. If it wasn’t for that, we would be working with a lot less numbers.

The role of the Boys & Girls Club is to fill gaps. We are a youth development agency. We’re like the Boy Scouts or church youth groups or 4H. We make sure that kids have positive adults around them. That’s important to us.

We shut down in mid-March when the schools shut down and we reopened June 1. Our parents, our kids, and our schools needed us. We opened up in pods to be safe.

When we opened back up, we had a COVID safety playbook. We were open so parents could work and our kids could get their homework done. We helped them understand what virtual education meant as we were learning.

Anybody who worked during that time period literally didn’t know if they were putting their life on the line. But that’s what you do when your community needs you.

None of us had ever seen this. I tell people all the time, ‘I’ll be better in the next pandemic.’ We all had to figure things out.

There are Boys & Girls Club children who have come back and owned businesses. Children who are now on the Board of Directors, and I now work for them. What a privilege it has been to live here and see that circle.

I’ve seen Goshen Community Schools evolve and change but not lose their soul and their heart. The church communities are strong and loving and supportive. I just so appreciate the fabric that they bring to Goshen.

I’ve enjoyed working with the mayors. They have a very tough job – way tougher than mine.

I’m from New England and I moved here and I’ve been here in Goshen now for more than 30 years. I will spend the rest of my life here because I love this community. The people are kind. They are generous. They are supportive. They are forgiving.

Writing and editing by Scott Weisser and Neil King

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