Jenkins: A Father Figure To Many Youths Over The Years

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Tom Jenkins, in his 26th year as director of the Greenville Boys and Girls Club, enjoys seeing the smiles on the faces of the children who come there. (Linda Moody photo)

GREENVILLE–Tom Jenkins is into his 25th year as director of Greenville Boys and Girls Club.

He’s perfect for the job.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It keeps me going. That’s why I stay young. It does not make a difference when you put a smile on their faces.”

He is not a stranger to being around young people.

He came from a family of 21 children, married a woman who was one of 12 children, helped raise her two children, and has a daughter of his own from a previous relationship.

“I took an interest in kids when I worked in an orphanage while I was with the military police in Guam,” he said. “I was working down the path in Tent City and, in my free time, spent it at the orphanage.”

He is the son of the late Dick and Julia Jenkins, who had 19 children.

“My father also had two other children,” he said.

Tom graduated in 1973 from Ansonia High School, where he played two years of basketball and football.

He spent four years of active duty in the Navy and another 20 years in the reserves.
It was while in the Navy that he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.
He met his wife, the former Diane Leeper, at Midmark in Versailles.

“I knew her family,” he said.

Diane Jenkins, the director’s wife, plays a game with her grandson on the pool table at the club on South Broadway. (Linda Moody photo)

Jenkins was a supervisor and had undergone a triple heart bypass and then finished out his work at Midmark working with a metal laser, retiring four years ago after 42 years.

“Diane worked in the drill and paint departments and then began taking parts to people,” he said. “She was there for 32 years and retired two years ago.”

They were married on Sept. 3, 1992; thus recently celebrated 31 years. They have a total of three children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Diane also helps around the Boys and Girls Club, as do a few others, including Terry Benge, Tina Crawford, and volunteer Pegi Deeter.

There are also 18 people on the board of directors, with outgoing Greenville Mayor Steve Willman serving as president and JoEllen Melling as assistant director and treasurer.

“Ted Finnarn, now retired, was the treasurer before JoEllen for many years,”  he said. “A lot of people, over the years, have helped at the club.”

Many of the activities are held at the club; however, they have been known to take some trips, such as a field day, if funding is available. They’ve been to the Columbus Zoo and last year to the Ark in Kentucky, in which 56 people went. They have also attended Dayton Dragons games as well, made trips to Ohio Caverns and Fort Wayne Zoo, and he even took the smaller children to the former Me Zoo in Indiana.

On those trips, he wears a whistle around his neck.

“I will take them to the new theater in town,” Tom said. “I remember when we saw the last movie in the original building there and went across the street for some ice cream.
Now, it’s a new theater, and the ice cream place is gone.

Children ages 7 to 16 are welcome to become involved in the Boys and Girls Club. The offer goes out to all of Darke County’s youths.

“In my years here, I have seen generations of kids, parents, and a few grandkids,” he said. “We have had special speakers come in, such as the fire department and its dogs, as well as police officers.”

According to Jenkins, a few children come here, and a lot of them are dropped off. Seventy percent of them live within a mile and a  half of here, he noted.

“Kids remember you,” the director said, beaming. “That’s a good feeling that you’re helping the kids.

We have a few rowdies, but the majority appreciate coming here. This is basically for after-school activities…watching TV, a wood shop, a small weight room, and a full-size kitchen. We encourage the kids to help in the kitchen.”

The club is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 8. p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4  p.m.

“We had to close down one summer for lack of funds,” said Tom. “JoEllen writes our grants, and the United Way does 50 percent of the budget. Several people in town donate. We are always looking for sponsors.”

Activities cost more money.

Tom Jenkins, left, is shown with the special Christmas tree that helped in celebrating with the children at the Greenville Boys and Girls Club last week. Also shown is one of the helpers, Terry Benge. (Linda Moody photo)

“All year, The late Missy Thornhill family supplies a lot of gifts here, and Lisa Cano helps too,” he added.

All tables were filled with gifts at their recent Christmas party this past week.

“The kids were allowed to go through three times for things,” Tom said.” We had $900 in gift cards given away. We set a record with a total of 91 kids at this year’s party; we had  72 last year.”

Tom even did some cooking for the party.

How did he become involved with the Boys and Girls Club? “My son, Tommy, and I were walking by and saw all the kids playing. We stepped in and saw what was going on. Tommy liked it, and I played pool with the kids.”

Jeff Miller, director at the time, subsequently asked Tom if he wanted a part-time job
And he obliged.

The club was originally for boys only in  1945, but later girls were permitted to join.

“It used to be 75 boys to 25 girls, and now it is 60 boys and 40 girls,” Tom said. “It started at East School in the basement as an after-school program as a non-profit organization. Then it moved to Memorial Hall in the basement and then to a little place on Walnut Street above Rodefeld’s. There was a one-lane bowling alley there and a boxing ring. Paul Kirkpatrick did the woodshop, then a building was purchased from Biddlestone’s in the mid-1990s.”

Playing air hockey is this group of children from left: Matthew Jenkins, Kix Jenkins, Mason Jenkins, and Serenity Benge. (Linda Moody photo)

Now, the club is located at 613 S. Broadway.

He’s happy to be there, and he plans to stay on for these children.

“As long as my health is good, I will continue,” he concluded.