For her entire life, Nellie Bogar wanted lots of kids. Today, many kids have become “hers” through Youth Village, which she founded 18 years ago. Youth Village provides kids a safe, fun place to learn from people who care about them. Nellie felt a strong desire to work with kids and keep them safe after school, especially between 2:00 and 6:00pm when many kids lack adult supervision and have great opportunities to be tempted into delinquent behavior.
Youth Village has grown over these 18 years to become instrumental in changing the lives of hundreds of children. They are bused from area schools for the after school program where they not only have snacks, learn theatre, arts and crafts, and get homework assistance, but they also are taught valuable life skills. Youth Village is open during school days from 2:00-6:00pm. During the summer months from 7:30am-5:30pm on weekdays, Youth Village makes an even bigger impact by offering Summer Camp. Here, the kids are not only entertained but are taught anti-bullying techniques, assertiveness, respect, self-respect, and even hygiene skills. Nellie and her daughter, Valerie, who is her right hand in this mission to serve kids, have recently created a new segment in the program called “Conversations Between Us Girls” where girls age 10 and up are taught about puberty and the many issues that go along with it.
Further, the kids’ lives are enriched in many ways as Nellie describes, “Youth Village provides a multitude of services including: safe transportation to the center, homework assistance, access to computers and e-readers, nutritional snacks, group fitness and health sessions, field trips, cultural opportunities via concert attendance courtesy of Demetrius Fuller of Sinfonia Gulf Coast and from Todd Eric Allen of the Northwest Florida Ballet. We also have drama workshops/performances, and thanks to our newest employee, we teach English to our growing population of Spanish speaking students.“
For the last 9 years, most of the funding for Youth Village’s after school program has come from Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. There are grants from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department and other community foundations. Youth Village has an ongoing capital campaign to help achieve the goal of funding a new facility. They are also working with The Early Learning Coalition so that when they move the coalition will be able to direct students on their list to Youth Village. Nellie says, “We hope to be able to begin moving forward within the next 6-12 months after purchasing a lot which will help us to begin our Capital Campaign more aggressively. We are also searching for a couple of Board Members who have a passion for helping children in need. Our main criteria for a Board Member is a deep sense of caring.”
Nellie Bogar has been very inventive with the resources she has to work with. She has been creative with community awareness and she has enriched and changed the lives of many area youngsters through her passion for children and her desire to be “The Mommy Mentor.”
Q & A with Nellie Bogar of Youth Village
*Describe how Youth Village is involved in the community
The majority of the children enrolled at Youth Village attend Title One Schools: Mary Esther Elementary, Elliott Point Elementary, Edwin’s Elementary, and Wright Elementary.
Our after-school program offers help with homework, computer literacy, public speaking skills, mentoring, cultural awareness, character building skills, bullying prevention techniques, and arts and crafts. Summer Camp consists of academics and Shelter House workshops for children 10 and older in the mornings and the afternoons consist of performing arts, fitness and nutrition workshops, field trips, and outdoor activities.
We also have Career Day Presentations where at least once each week one person from the community comes out and talk to the children about their careers and what it takes academically to obtain a career in these various occupations. At Youth Village, we strive to break the chain of poverty for these children.
*What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I don’t really call it my “job”, but I call it my “mission” and I feel rewarded when a child says that they love coming to Youth Village because it feels almost like home.. I love it when some of the parents come to pick up their child and the child is unhappy because they have to leave. The parents may not be too happy about it, but I am!
*How did you become involved with Youth Village?
I founded Youth Village almost 19 years ago, when Jimmy James came to my former church to make a presentation to the kids. He was a Juvenile Probation Officer and stressed that he hopes he never sees the kids in his office or the courtroom. He asked the congregation for volunteers in his office and I volunteered thinking that I would be working with the kids. But this was mostly secretarial work…no thank you! I mentioned to Mr. James that I really would like to start an after school program. Mr. James helped me acquire a grant and so it began. From 1999 to June 2007, we were funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Mr. James is now one of the longest-term members of Youth Village Board of Directors and is also now a Teen Court Judge for Okaloosa County.
*What have been some obstacles you have faced as an organization and some of your triumphs?
Community awareness. People still ask, “What is Youth Village?” We’ve been around for a long time doing some really great stuff for the children and the community, but it is VERY hard raising funds because we’re small (but mighty).
Another obstacle is our very real need to build a larger building with greater security. We have a huge waiting list for our summer camp of almost 50 children because we simply do not have the space. We have new parents and returning parents already signing their children up for our after-school program, which begins on August 10.
Our biggest triumph is having our former students come back as either volunteers or staff members. We currently have one former student who is on staff with us year-round. We also have 2 high school students who are there full-time during the summer as volunteers…they come because they care and because we provide community service hours for future college applications.
*Describe a situation working with the organization that really stood out and touched you.
I entered and won a contest back in 2011 with Southwest Airlines celebrating their 40 years of service. They awarded 40 non-profit organizations with 40 round-trip tickets to the destination of their choice within the United States. I found out about it and entered with only 48 hours remaining before the deadline. I had to write an essay, take a picture of the kids and tell where we wanted to go and why. I asked the kids and they said New York City because there was so much to learn and do there. Well, we won! So in June of 2012 we took 40 kids and chaperones to the Big Apple for 5 days. The vast majority of the kids had never even been out of the county! One of my best moments was on the airplane when two brothers, 8 year old Isaac and 9 year old Herbie, hollered with joy while grabbing each other’s faces and said, “Look at us…we’re flying!” We hadn’t even left the runway! This was one of my best moments EVER! I was born and raised in New Jersey and had been to New York hundreds of times, but this time I saw it through the eyes of the children and it was awesome!
*Is Youth Village involved in any upcoming events?
The Youth Village kids recently starred in the production of The Lion King, Jr., which was directed and choreographed by Valerie Bogar.
Youth Village has been chosen as one of the recipients of the upcoming
Century 21 Blue Marlin 5th Annual Charity Golf Tournament which will take place on October 20. For more information, please contact Lexi at email@example.com or 850-460-7777.
*What plans does Youth Village have for the future?
A larger building to be able to serve more children, to acquire more dedicated and caring board members, to attract visionaries who care about the future of the kids and our community, and, of course, money to make it all happen.