Hankins to be honored for youth work

By Traci DiPietro
Staff Writer
Posted 4/25/07

On April 26, Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant will present a proclamation honoring the life and work of Trina Hankins; the unit director for the Rotary Boys & Girls Club of Fairhope, located on Young Street. The Fairhope Club is a part of the Boys & Girls …

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Hankins to be honored for youth work


On April 26, Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant will present a proclamation honoring the life and work of Trina Hankins; the unit director for the Rotary Boys & Girls Club of Fairhope, located on Young Street. The Fairhope Club is a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama.

Hankins began volunteering at the club in 1996, while her three children, still young at that time, were attending.

“At the time, it was just something to do,” said Hankins.

Within a year, she was offered a position as a membership clerk, which she accepted. Before long, she was promoted to teen coordinator. She could hardly believe it at the time, she said. She was promoted yet again to assistant unit director, and by 2000, to unit director.

“I wore several hats over the years,” Hankins said with a chuckle.

In addition to working her way up from the ranks of volunteer to unit director in four years, Hankins stayed busy raising three children and helping to care for a husband on dialysis. She also attended classes at Faulkner State Community College in her spare time, and eventually received an associate’s degree in both general studies and social sciences.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama exists to provide year-round youth development programs based on principles of behavioral guidance. The programs promote leadership, character and health, and emphasize the importance of education and cultural growth.

Hankins strives to uphold these core principles at her Fairhope facility, and she believes the way to do it is through role modeling. She sees the club as far more than a recreational center, and her job as far more than a director.

Her facility provides a safe haven for children within their community, a place where they can learn the fundamental skills of respect, trust and leadership; a place to practice the skills of conducting themselves respectfully prior to entering the somewhat mired world of young adulthood.

Rather than positioning herself as a controlling authority, Hankins said she sometimes uses educational lectures as a means of correction. For adults accustomed to sitting through lectures, this may not seem very harsh, but for a youth with a 20-minute attention span, said Hankins, it can seem like torture. She believes the best way to teach is through example, and not only does she hold her herself to this standard, she holds students to it.

“The older members help the younger ones, and even correct them if they act out,” said Hankins. “This shows me the kids are listening.”

It has not always been easy to keep the doors of the center open, but Hankins takes no credit for its success. Without volunteers and the financial assistance of the city and area civic organizations and United Way funding, she said, the club would not exist. This would be a major setback to the 200 children and more than 40 families the center has served over the last year.

The children come from a variety of backgrounds and situations. Some of the kids attend to get help with homework while their parents are at work, and others are there just because it is a safe, drug free place to be.

“There just is not a lot out there for these kids,” said Hankins. “We provide a safe, healthy environment for them.”

In her 10 years at the club, Hankins has watched a number of kids grow from childhood to adulthood. The hardest part of her job, she said, is seeing a child turn bad. She works with parents and makes every effort to reach these kids; often to no avail. Learning to let go of these “unreachable” kids, she said, has been painful for her.

“It’s hard. Every child here is given the same opportunity. We teach them to make good choices, to choose a good path, but sometimes they don’t. I run into some of these kids years later, and they have a hard time looking at me.”

They hang their head in her presence, she said, because they know they are wrong; they were taught better.

“But we have to forgive them,” said Hankins. “We have to forgive them in order to teach them to forgive. Role modeling is the most valuable tool we have.”

The center, open Monday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (with extended hours in summer and during school vacations), offers pottery classes taught by professional potters, computer education, sports and fitness, social recreation and a health and lifestyle program that deals with issues like peer pressure, drug education and sexual abstinence.

Hankins said she loves working with children, and she derives a great deal of satisfaction from knowing she has been able to touch so many lives.

“My friends often ask me how I have the patience to do this; I tell them that God gives me the patience, and I do the job because I love it,” she said. “You have to love this job to do it.”

Kant said he was impressed with Hankins when he met her last year.

“I thought we ought to recognize her for her dedication and hard work,” said Kant. “It had been so hard to find a unit director, and with her experience she could have taken a job with a much better salary. “

Children from the Rotary Boys & Girls Club of Fairhope have been busy glazing terra cotta flower pots under the tutelage of professional potter Susie Bowman. The pot project is part of a fund-raiser aimed at providing affordable Mother’s Day gifts.

The colorful pots are available for sale at the Young Street location during hours of operation, and will be available through the Friday preceding Mother’s Day. (Two large pots are $18, 1 large pot is $10, and small pots are $6. All of the money raised will be applied back into the pottery program.

Call 928-9148 for more information.