By John Kanelis
Kimber Daniel took on her current job as part of a rescue team.
The "victim" that needed to be rescued was the Maverick Boys and Girls Club. Money had dried up. It was floundering. Along the way, the number of children the organization was serving had declined.
The administration had been changed, with staffers and administrators being terminated.
It was time to start over. Enter the new team.
So, in 2011 Daniel joined the Maverick staff as the club's office manager. Then she moved on to become its chief fundraiser. She's now the executive director and president of the Maverick club – and she said the organization is thriving again.
Who gets the credit? Daniel is quick to give it to three elements: the club board of directors, the club staff and the community. "They are the three keys to the success we're having," Daniel said.
It wasn't always this way, Daniel recalled.
It was about eight years ago, she noted, that the Maverick club "had to borrow $20,000 from the bank just to make its payroll." She said the board then "fired everybody and began looking for a new executive director."
She said the board brought in Vic Allcorn, an Amarillo business executive, to run the place on a temporary basis. "He ran the club on a shoestring. No one wanted this place to close. There would have been no place for these kids to go," Daniel said.
"These kids" come from throughout the community. They qualify for reduced-priced after-school care and attend camps during the summer months when school is out. They must come from families that live at or below the poverty line, according to federal standards.
Enrollment at the Maverick fell to "around 300 to 400" when times were tough, said Daniel. Today the enrollment is at 762 children, ages 5 to 18. The club has been serving three Amarillo Independent School District sites, Daniel said: the Maverick club itself at 1923 S. Lincoln, and Glenwood and Lee elementary schools.
But the enrollment is expected to take a significant boost starting with the 2015-16 school year, when 12 Canyon ISD schools' students become involved with the Maverick Boys and Girls Club, according to Daniel.
When enrollment declined precipitously, so did the money, Daniel noted.
"Our budget was $285,000 a year when I came on board" in 2011, Daniel said.
The Maverick club then began putting on fundraising luncheons and raised $150,000 at its first such event, she said. "The next year our budget went up to $400,000," she said.
"This year our budget is $1.8 million," Daniel said.
The goal of the Maverick Boys and Girls Club is to help build young people's character through service projects and to help them set – and achieve – high academic goals.
Many of the children come from difficult circumstances. "Seventy-seven percent of our kids live at or below the poverty line established by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)," Daniel said. "So we have to make this affordable," she said.
The average day care cost for children at Maverick is $25 per month; summer camp costs an average of $150 for the entire three months when school is not in session, Daniel explained. That compares to private providers charging $75 per week for day care and $125 weekly for summer camp, "give or take," according to Daniel.
The summer camp experience is particularly rewarding for the kids, Daniel noted. Students this summer are filling food boxes for the High Plains Food Bank and are packing sacks for Snack Pack 4 Kids. "The kids are thrilled to pack those food boxes and sacks," Daniel said. "They're so excited."
The summer program also includes field trips. "We take them to the Amarillo Town Club, where they get to swim. They go to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Palo Duro Canyon and to Wonderland (Park). All these trips are paid for with the money we raise," Daniel said.
Even though students are eligible to participate at the Maverick until they are 18, "We start losing them when they're about 15," she said. "They get into sports and start driving," Daniel explained.
One of the many benefits of the program, she said, is that "the kids take their experiences home with them." Daniel told the story of one boy who "wanted to plant a garden, but was told by his mother, 'But we live in an apartment.'" Daniel said the Maverick club provided the boy with a box, which he filled with soil into which he planted tomatoes and squash. "The family grew the produce and then ate what they produced," she said.
The kids compete for honors at the Maverick Boys and Girls Club. The current Youth of the Year is 14-year-old Shant'era Smith, who'll be starting her sophomore year at Amarillo High School. "I wrote a speech about what Maverick means to me," Shant'era explained.
And what does it mean? "It's my home and it has helped me grow."
She went on: "Before I came to Maverick, I was really shy. Now I'm a crazy kid. I like to be involved in things."
Shant'era told of a leadership conference she attended in Dallas, where she "learned how to be independent and be a team player." Her group assembled packages for kids. "We had to develop a PowerPoint. We made speeches and found a good way to advertise it," she said.
Daniel sees a bright future for the Maverick club. "We're sustainable now," she said. "We hope to increase the number of individual donors," she added. About 75 percent of the Maverick club budget comes from grants and from the United Way of Amarillo/Canyon, where Daniel worked before joining the Maverick Boys and Girls Club. "Only about 9 percent of our money comes from individuals," she said, "and we want to increase it to about 25 percent."
Even when times were tough at the Maverick, "We never quit serving the kids. The kids always came first," Daniel said. "But we had a roller-coaster ride with the funders," she said.
She said the Maverick club "has been here for 81 years."
The Maverick has endured its share of rough going during that time, but Daniel said the mission remains the same: to teach young people the right way to behave.
"If you spit on the floor, we're going to make you do push-ups," Daniel said, adding that "in the past 4 ½ years none of our kids have gone through the juvenile justice system."