The Transylvania Times -

Witherspoon To Leave Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club


September 10, 2018

Jackie Witherspoon is leaving the Boys & Girls Club after 10 years.

Jackie Witherspoon, who in no small degree has been a persuasive and passionate voice for the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club for many in Transylvania County, is leaving after a decade of growing the club's donor base to the point where individual contributions allow it to continue expanding services while keeping membership affordable.

For instance, in her time in the role as resource development (RD) director, the club's annual fund-raising efforts have grown from $150,000 to $562,000, according to a press release.

"Within the past five years alone, Jackie has led the club's resource development efforts to raise over $2.4 million to fund the club's mission," said Executive Director Candice Walsh.

Witherspoon was the club's first resource development director, defining and refining the RD job as she went along, Walsh said, and the model she helped create will serve well the club's continuing efforts to expand community support.

"Jackie is a one-of-kind, amazing individual who will be greatly missed," said Meredith Baldridge, president of the Board of Directors.

Witherspoon, a former English teacher at Brevard High School and still the longtime cross-country and track coach there, said she's leaving the RD position for personal reasons.

"I hope to have more time and energy for my family, both near and far," she said. "And it took me a long time to decide a fresh perspective would be welcome in resource development. But I remain committed to and an advocate for our club."

Witherspoon is leaving her position after a short transition period, Walsh said. The club has begun a search for a replacement. In the meantime, Walsh has named Sarah St. Marie, a former staff director, as interim RD director.

Witherspoon and her husband, John, a real estate broker and land conservationist, have a 19-year-old daughter, Eliza, a college student, and a son, Knox, 15, a freshman at Brevard High. Their home is on a 70-acre farm off Greenville Highway on the banks of the French Broad River.

She joined the club's board in 2002 and assumed the newly created RD position, which was at first part-time.

"We realized we needed to raise money every day," she said.

Witherspoon has been in the county since 1994 and through her teaching and other involvements has accumulated a widespread knowledge and many friends and acquaintances, the release said. Because of that background, said Board member Parker Platt, son of founder Cindy Platt, Witherspoon was a natural pick to spearhead efforts for RD.

Through the years, Parker Platt, a former president of the Board, worked closely with Witherspoon on RD.

"Her dedication to a combination of donors and events is really unmatched," he said. "We're thankful for what she's done."

What She's Done

Witherspoon's contribu-tions to the job of expanding financial support for the club, whose annual operating budget is now nearly $1 million, are plentiful and varied, the release said. Aside from the well-organized fund drive each year, she has helped develop a variety of other major initiatives: from the annual Mountain Song Festival, held last weekend, to the likes of a "Tail Chaser" motorcycle event, the tongue-in-cheek Pisgah Thunder dance performers, the upscale Bent River Farm Benefit Dinner each June and the sale last month of more than 100 smoked pork butts, donated and cooked each year by supporters Clay and Lisa Sykes.

Witherspoon is typically humble about taking credit, though, the release said.

"My proudest accom-plishment is to have been just a part of the effort to eliminate our club's significant debt accumu-lated during the acquisition and renovation of our current facility," she said. "Because of these major gifts, our club is thriving today."

Average daily attendance at the 25,000-square-foot clubhouse on Gallimore Road and the Teen Center on Nicholson Creek Road, both in Brevard, is running about 250 in the after-school program that started Aug. 27. Overall club membership is up to 385.

Dues are purposely kept low, $100, to keep the club accessible to the greatest number of children. The small revenue from that contributes just 10 percent to meeting operational expenses. Virtually all the rest of what it takes to run the club comes from donations and grants.

The club operates countless programs for children, from first graders to high school teens, and Witherspoon remains enthusiastic about their importance in developing good citizens.

"I believe the club's value to the community is tremendous," she said. "As the largest youth-serving organization in the county, our club impacts hundreds and hundreds of families, providing their children with life-enhancing programming in a positive, safe environment at a very affordable cost."

She said while their children are in the club's after-school programs, parents can have peace of mind they are being mentored by caring adults, given the opportunity to complete homework, engaging in physical activity and are even provided dinner.

"This makes our club an invaluable resource in our community," she said.

Among her happiest moments at the club were the times she saw examples of how children brought home what they learned.

"Learning of club parents making positive changes in their health and lifestyles because their kids have encouraged them after taking part in programs such as SMART Kids and Healthy Habits," she said, "that always brought a smile to my face."

There were sad moments, too, though, such as the sudden death five years ago of Cindy Platt.

"My saddest memory is the loss of Cindy, who not only was the heart and soul of our club, but also inspired me at a very young age to get involved and make a positive impact in the lives of others," said Witherspoon. "She believed all kids from all walks of life are at risk and in need of acceptance, reassurance and encouragement. Cindy brought her family and friends on board to the club's mission and here we are today."

Long-time Board member Parker Platt and his nephew, Cindy's grandson, 9-year-old Luke McLaughlin, worked during the annual Cindy Platt Day of Service at the clubhouse last month.

The Future

Witherspoon said she'll continue volunteering at the club as head of its running programs and will always have an interest in the organization moving ahead.

"Our club's future will need to focus on how we can increase our capacity so that we can serve every child that needs to be served," she said.

"Of course, I'm sad she's leaving," said Walsh. "Jackie and I have built a really strong relationship. But we'll attempt to turn this into an opportunity."

Parker Platt says those sentiments about Witherspoon's departure permeate the entire organization. "Although we'll have to move on to the next chapter, it is with sadness and extreme gratefulness for what she's done and the knowledge that she can never be replaced," he said.


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