boys and girls club

Here Are the Top Character and Leadership Programs at BGCA

boysandgirlsclubOver the course of its 150-plus-year history, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has built a full suite of programs designed to help kids and teens excel in school and lead healthy, productive lives. With more than 4,600 Clubs in US cities and military installations worldwide, the organization offers programs in various areas, including education, health and wellness, sports, and the arts. A core focus of BGCA’s work is on instilling character and leadership skills among its 4.7 million members.

BGCA’s efforts to create 21st-century leaders have been very successful. In fact, 75 percent of its regular members report having volunteered in their communities at least once in the previous year. Meanwhile, 41 percent of Club youth report volunteering at least once per month. In addition to volunteering their time, BGCA members demonstrate good character through their willingness to stand up for what is right while ensuring that those around them feel important.

The ultimate goal of BGCA’s character and leadership programs is to help youth become caring and responsible citizens with the decision-making and planning skills needed to contribute positively to their local Club and greater communities. Read on to learn more about these impactful programs and initiatives.


Keystone Club

Much of BGCA’s character and leadership work is carried out in its Keystone Clubs. Designed for youth ages 14 to 18, Keystone Club is a national program that focuses on service and leadership and gives participants the opportunity to volunteer in

their communities. Under the guidance of an adult supervisor, youth engage in activities aimed at academic success and career preparation.


Along with after-school activities, Keystone Club members participate in the BGCA-hosted National Keystone Conference. This annual multi-day event brings teen leaders and adult advisors from across the country together for activities focused on various social issues. More than 1,500 people took part in the 2019 Keystone Conference, which covered a range of topics, including school violence, mental health, and gender identity.

The National Keystone Conference and Keystone Clubs across the country are supported in large part through the generosity of Aaron’s, Inc. In 2018, the lease-purchase retailer’s giving division, Aaron’s Foundation, renewed its partnership with Keystone Clubs and BGCA via a three-year, $5-million commitment. The money will be used to fund the Keystone Conference and provide renovations of Clubs nationwide.


Million Members, Million Hours of Service

As its name suggests, Million Members, Million Hours of Service (MMMHS) is a BGCA initiative that aims to engage 1 million Club members in 1 million hours of community service each year. In addition to helping Club youth become more productive, service-oriented citizens, MMMHS benefits participants by promoting positive relationships and assisting them in avoiding risky behavior. Studies have also shown that youth who engage in service perform better academically and are less likely to drop out of high school.

The list of BGCA partners that have supported MMMHS includes the Citi Foundation, a group that backed past signature service events such as United We Serve: Summer of Service. BGCA continues to host service activities as part of MMMHS, but Club members are encouraged to host their own service projects throughout the year.


Torch Club

Referred to as “the club within the Club,” Torch Club was created to help adolescents ages 11 to 13 develop leadership skills as well as good character and integrity. Boys and girls who participate in local Torch Club programs elect leadership officers and work together to organize and implement various activities. These activities focus on service to Club and community, health and fitness, social recreation, and education. Torch Club members across the country are also invited to engage in a service-learning experience as part of the annual National Torch Club Project.


Corporate supporters of Torch Club include Old Navy, which raises money for the national program via its annual back-to-school donation drive. In addition, Old Navy employees volunteer their time to Torch Clubs nationwide. Samsung Electronics America is also a Torch Club supporter. Each year, the company sponsors the Climate Superstars Challenge, which has eligible Torch Clubs competing to win Samsung products.


Youth of the Year

Since its beginnings as a grassroots initiative in the late 1940s, Youth of the Year has grown to become BGCA’s signature leadership development program. To become the Youth of the Year, a Club teen must advance through local, state, and regional events. Winners are chosen because they exemplify the BGCA mission and showcase the organization’s ability to help youth reach their full potential as responsible, productive, and caring citizens.

In addition to selecting one exceptional Club member as the National Youth of the Year, Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide involve more members in the program as part of its Youth of the Month component. Meanwhile, younger Club members ages 11 to 13 are recognized through the Junior Youth of the Year program.

In 2019, six outstanding young men and women were chosen as finalists for National Youth of the Year. The award was ultimately given to Sabrina M., a Barnard College freshman who has been a Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco member for over 12 years. She was honored during a special gala and celebration dinner in Washington, DC, and will now serve as the national teen spokesperson for Club youth.


Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.


This Is What You Need to Know about the Purple Heart Medal

In 1957, the Purple Heart Foundation was established as the fundraising arm of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), a congressionally chartered veterans organization comprising a membership body of Purple Heart recipients. Today, the Foundation and MOPH continue to oversee and support a range of programs that help veterans recover and prosper following military service.

To gain a better appreciation of these two organizations and the decorated military members they serve, take a look at these 10 facts about the Purple Heart medal:


  1. The Purple Heart is the oldest military honor in the US.

While it took many more years to evolve into its current look and name, the Purple Heart has a history dating back to the 1780s. Its predecessor, the Badge of Military Merit, was established by President George Washington in 1782. After the medal fell into disuse, General Douglas MacArthur led efforts to revive the honor in the early 1930s, creating the modern-day Purple Heart.

revolutionary war


  1. The medal was first awarded during the Revolutionary War.

Elijah Churchill and William Brown of the Continental Army are most commonly credited as being the first Purple Heart recipients. Of course, the two soldiers received the honor under its original title, the Badge of Military Merit. The first modern-day Purple Heart was awarded to the man who helped create it, General Douglas MacArthur.


  1. It was the first military award for lower-ranking soldiers.

Prior to the establishment of the Purple Heart’s predecessor, military honors were typically reserved for officers credited with significant victories in battle. President Washington created the Badge of Military Merit specifically to honor the outstanding service of enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers among his troops.


  1. Animals are among the list of Purple Heart recipients.

In its long history, the Purple Heart has been awarded to four-legged recipients. During WWI, a dog named Stubby was awarded two Purple Hearts for his actions with the 102nd Infantry Regiment. A horse named Reckless also received the honor twice for wounds she incurred during the Korean War. Military service animals aren’t currently eligible for the Purple Heart, however.


  1. Many well-known individuals have received the honor.

Over the years, the Purple Heart has been bestowed upon many people who are well-known for their civilian achievements. This includes politicians such as John Kerry and John McCain, writers and filmmakers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Oliver Stone, and actors such as Charles Bronson and James Garner.


  1. The Purple Heart has been awarded to only one US president.

Politicians at all levels of government are among the list of Purple Heart recipients. However, the list of US presidents who have earned the honor contains only one individual: John F. Kennedy.

As a Navy reserve lieutenant during WWII, Kennedy was injured during a boat collision near the Solomon Islands. Despite the injury to his back, he managed to swim to shore and save another soldier. In addition to the Purple Heart, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for this act.


  1. More Purple Hearts were awarded during WWII than any other conflict.

John F. Kennedy is among a large group of over 1 million people who earned the Purple Heart for their actions during WWII. In total, 1.07 million of the medals were awarded during the war, which is more than all that were awarded in all other 20th-century conflicts combined.


  1. Purple Hearts weren’t always reserved exclusively for injured or mortally wounded service members.

Today, the Purple Heart medal is only awarded to military personnel who are injured or killed during a hostile encounter with enemy forces, but this wasn’t always the case. Originally, the honor could be bestowed on anyone who provided a “meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity” during military action, regardless of whether or not they were injured.

military parachuting


  1. The record for the most Purple Hearts awarded to one individual is in the double digits.

Although a number of service members have earned more than one Purple Heart, the record for the most Purple Hearts in US military history belongs to Curry T. Haynes. During the Vietnam War, the member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the 503rd Army Infantry received a series of injuries that later earned him 10 Purple Hearts. Haynes’ injuries occurred as the result of gunfire, grenades, and a B-40 rocket.


  1. Purple Heart Day honors Purple Heart recipients.

On August 7, government agencies, current and former service members, veterans’ organizations, and other groups come together to take part in National Purple Heart Day, which was first observed in 2014. This special day of observance gives people the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of the men and women who have been injured or killed while serving their country. Ways to get involved include attending an event or donating to groups such as the Purple Heart Foundation.


Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.


Pursuing Social Good – A Look at the History of Goodwill Industries

Now in its second century of operation, Goodwill Industries has a history dating back to the first years of the 1900s. Today, the organization is stronger than ever as it works to help individuals and families attain better futures through the power of work. Read on for an overview of Goodwill’s history and to get a closer look at how the organization continues to improve lives throughout the United States and other countries around the world.


Reverend Edgar J. Helms and Goodwill’s Beginnings

goodwill logoLaunched through the efforts of one man, Goodwill was established in 1902 when a Boston-based Methodist minister named Edgar J. Helms began a system of collecting items from Boston’s wealthy residents and repairing them for resale to those who were less fortunate. Reverend Helms hired people in need to help with the repair and resale of the items he collected, giving rise to a self-help system that continues at Goodwill Industries today.

As Helms expanded his program, the repairing and reselling grew to include not only clothing but also furniture and other household goods. In Boston, this work was performed early on under the name of Morgan Memorial Industries and Stores. This name came from the Unitarian Church’s multidenominational Henry Morgan Memorial Chapel, which Helms led in Boston’s South End. Later, the Unitarian Church withdrew its support for the project, and Helms moved his next self-help operation to Brooklyn, New York, where the Goodwill Industries name was first used.


Goodwill Expands Nationwide and Beyond

With the success of his early efforts to help those in need, Helms took his message of “not a charity, but a chance” to other areas of the country. By the 1920s, Goodwill Industries had opened in US cities outside of the East Coast, including Cleveland, Denver, and Los Angeles.

As the number of Goodwill centers in the United States grew, Helms toured the world, visiting Europe, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East with his self-help idea. This laid the groundwork for what would become Goodwill Industries International, which now has a presence in 12 countries outside of the United States and Canada.

While the Great Depression changed Goodwill Industries’ direction in the US, the organization was still able to grow while other nonprofit groups failed because it depended on donations of goods rather than cash. In the 1930s, Goodwill Industries was thriving in over five dozen US cities and several communities outside of the country.


Goodwill’s Work in the Mid-1900s

In 1942, Reverend Edgar J. Helms died, but not before seeing the promising beginnings of what would become the thriving network of more than 150 community-based organizations that Goodwill Industries is today. During the remainder of the 1940s, the nonprofit group played an important role in assisting with the World War II home front effort by helping returning servicemen and servicewomen find gainful employment after combat.

Throughout the 1950s, the Goodwill network continued to grow, and the organization began to play a leading role in providing jobs to people living with disabilities. The 1950s also saw the majority of Goodwill agencies become self-supporting and nondenominational, moving away from the Methodist Church.

As the 1960s arrived, Goodwill stepped up its activities employing people with disabilities. Between 1960 and 1966, the organization increased the percentage of employees with developmental and/or physical disabilities from 32 percent to 42 percent. The 1960s also saw the adoption of the now-iconic “Smiling G” logo, which is still used today.


Featured Image by Mike Mozart | Flickr

Entering the Modern Era

After the nation’s first Goodwill drop-off donation center opened in the early 1970s, the organization entered a new era of accepting and selling household goods while putting underserved individuals to work. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Goodwill Industries expanded its employee population to include people with employment barriers such as lack of education, criminal history, and advanced age. During this time, the group also began to incorporate high-tech training programs into its offerings alongside those focused on basic skills development.

Another big event in Goodwill’s history came in 1999, when the organization launched its e-commerce website, which was the country’s first nonprofit online auction site. With the opening of the new millennium, Goodwill also continued to expand its traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

The number of member organizations during this time grew worldwide, providing more revenue to support programs focused on career training and job placement for people of limited employability. This work continues today as Goodwill seeks to help more people find success in the 21st century.


Goodwill Looks to the Future

What began with an innovative idea about how to help those in need has grown into a $6 billion organization with a reach extending into communities across the United States and several other countries. Over 115 years after its founding, Goodwill is looking to the future with programs and services focused on equipping people with 21st-century skills. Currently, the group is working with corporate partners such as Google, Accenture, and Indeed to provide digital skills training and other services to help people attain employment, enhance their resumes, and build their careers in the modern workplace.