Tommy John has only been the chief executive officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton for two weeks, and already has high hopes for the nearly 70-year-old organization.
For the past seven years, John had been with the Boys and Girls Clubs in South Florida, a journey that started a dozen years ago in northwest Indiana. He took the job in Hamilton, in part, to move closer to his home of Chicago, which is about a four-hour drive.
John’s top priority is to learn about the Boys and Girls Club’s board members, community and business leaders, and the citizens, many of whom are a part of families that have lived in Hamilton for generations. And the more he learns, the better he can lead the club that was founded in 1954 because “our kids in Hamilton deserve the absolute best.”
“There’s an excited energy around this city, where there are some exciting opportunities that are coming in,” said John in talking about reasons why he wanted this job. “To me, that means there is some great leadership, and there is some great leadership from the community that is really driving this new age for Hamilton. I want to make sure our club members have access to those things too.”
He emphasized that the Boys and Girls Club is not just for the socio-economically disadvantaged, as the organization is for kids from all corners of the city of Hamilton, especially those in need of social interaction.
“I think more important than ever is social recreation and talking to people face-to-face, introducing yourself, working as a team,” he said. “I think it’s an important skill because as much as jobs have changed over the years, something that hasn’t changed is the ability to work collaboratively as a team, and that’s a big part of what Boys and Girls Clubs do.”
Will Armstead, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County, said John is “a remarkable individual who has been developing and growing for just this role” in Hamilton.
In a press release from the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton, Armstead told the Hamilton organization that John “identified as an integral part of the reason one of their members was recognized as the Florida Youth of the Year, why the club was recognized as a Best Places to Work in St. Lucie County (three years in a row), and why his team there is still going strong.”
The organization said as it’s preparing to launch creating in-school programs, John brings “significant experience” in developing successful school-based sites, including with aligning with the St. Lucie County School District and the organization’s program approach.
John, who has settled into an apartment at The Marcum with his girlfriend and their two rescue dogs, said he knew he wanted to be someone who helped people in some way, a character trait developed working for his dad.
“I just wanted to help, but I just didn’t know in what way,” he said. “For a long time, helping for me meant working at my dad’s grocery store in south Chicago and pushing carts through the snow.”
He said he gained a “passion for getting to know people” at that grocery store as many were regulars at the small store. “I knew people by name, I knew how they liked their stuff bagged, I knew which car was theirs, and I knew who needed help out. Helping people and being connected to people started working at my dad’s store.”
He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in elementary education, and got a teaching job in southwest Indiana out of college. But he soon learned the kids who had trouble learning were the ones that had after school problems, whether that was home life or trouble with other people.
“What’s happening after school is just as important because it prepares them to learn the next day,” he said.
That led John to work part-time working at the local Boys and Girls Club, and eventually, he left teaching to focus his career helping children outside of school because “that’s where I needed to be to make the most impact on kids’ lives.”
He eventually landed in South Florida and stayed there for seven years before coming to lead the Hamilton club.
“The whole thing that drives me is that everyone can help, everyone can help our club members,” he said. “It doesn’t always mean that they need to give financially. It means whatever way they can support the development of the youth in our community, they should consider doing that because we want to continue to build the community.”
About the Author