Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Optimist Branch, held their 2023 Alumni Reunion Cookout on Saturday, September 16. The event-themed “Journey Over the Years” brought together those who have played an integral role in shaping the legacy of the Optimist Branch, from volunteers and staff to Club kids, alumni, and parents. As they entered through the building doors, feelings of nostalgia and sadness overwhelmed them as they took their final walk-through. Amidst warm salutations and well wishes, tears and sighs filled the air as they bid farewell to 1517 Plaza Drive, Mobile, Alabama.
This event was particularly significant as it symbolizes the last public gathering at the current Optimist Branch location. Community members reminisced, reconnected, and celebrated in the true spirit of the Optimist Branch.
Community members attended the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Optimist Branch 2023 Alumni Reunion Cookout on Saturday, September 16. The event-themed “Journey Over the Years allowed the community members, alumni, volunteers, etc., to reminisce, reconnect, and celebrate the true spirit of the Optimist Branch. Amidst the warm salutations and well wishes, feelings of nostalgia and sadness overwhelmed them as they took their final walk through the building, realizing this would be the last public gathering at the current Optimist Branch location, 1517 Plaza Dr, mobile, al., often referred to as their home, their safe place by Club kids.
Kayleigh Morgan, 2023 Youth of the Year, Optimist Branch, served as emcee, followed by opening remarks from William Burks, Branch Director. LaMaya Hatton, Keystone Club vice-president, welcomed the guests and recited a poem, and Zane Morgan, Keystone secretary, gave inspirational remarks. Willie Jackson, AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent volunteer, provided an uplifting prayer and blessing of the food followed by a song from Daleecia Taylor, 2016 Optimist Youth of the Year.
Several Optimist Branch parents, former staffers, and volunteers, such as Minister Brandon and Kerrie Sanders, Wings of Life, shared heartwarming reflections and thoughts about their experiences at the Club. “Wings of Life started a relationship with the Club 13 years ago. We began having outreaches and doing a weekly Bible study with the kiddos. The kids would come to our Bible study week after week. I formed relationships that I still have today,” Kerrie Sanders says. “When Brandon and I got married, our wedding party were kids from the Boys and Girls Club. “Thankful for you, William Burks and Nonnie Parker, for giving your life for something great!!”
Guests were treated to a musical selection by the Optimist Club Africatown Drummers led by Mobile Optimist Drummers, the Mobile Alabama Africa Town Drummers (M.A.A.D.), under the direction of Wayne Curtis.
Reflections were also provided by Kayleigh Morgan, 2023 Youth of the Year, and Vanity Parker-Ford, 2012-2015 Youth of the Year. Vanity Parker-Ford thanked Club staff for their dedication to Club kids. “Thank you, Nonnie Parker & William Burks. You all dedicated so much time to your work. You loved the kids like they were your own, and even if they messed up a thousand times, you still gave us a chance after chance,” she says. “You will never know how many lives you all impacted, and all of you never complained much about doing it.”
Deelecia Taylor wowed audiences with a song followed by a tribute poem from Nonnie Parker, Boys & Girls Clubs site director located at Harmon-Thomas Recreation Center. Angelia Crosby, Optimist advisory board member, and Job Corps director provided acknowledgments.
William Burks, Optimist Branch director, gave closing remarks and thanked everyone for their continuous support of the Club. He encouraged everyone to be “OPTIMISTIC” and patient as the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama remains fully committed to finding a new location for the Optimist Branch.
To his surprise, Burks received a Proclamation from the Mobile City Council declaring September 16, 2023, William Burks Day in the City of Mobile for his unwavering support of youth and dedication to the Optimist Boys & Girls Clubs. Mobile City Councilman Corey Penn, District 1, congratulated Burks on receiving “William Burks Day” in the City of Mobile. “My first job with Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama was at the Optimist Boys & Girls Club! William Burks was the Branch Director,” Penn says. “He has helped so many youth in our city. He is truly a blessing to our city and our youth.”