Earlier this year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County alumnus Gene Brown visited the DeSoto Boys & Girls Club to share his memories as a Club kid and his excitement over building a new Club. Walking through the doors of the nearly five decades old DeSoto Club is like stepping back in time for Mr. Brown. When Gene first walked through the doors of what was then the Boys Club in 1975 he was 8 years old, Gerald Ford was President of the United States, mood rings and 8 tracks were in, Beta and VHS VCRs were just developed and a quart of milk was only 33¢.

Yes, many things were different 42 years ago, but what the Club offered young people still holds true today… a safe, positive place to learn, grow and have fun. “Nobody knows every kid’s situation… what might be happening at home, whether there is a divorce or abuse situation,” said Mr. Brown. “To me, the Club saved my life. It gave me a place to be and things to do that made me the person I am today.”

Today, Gene Brown is a husband, father, Bradenton City Councilman and local business owner. “Without the Club, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that,” he said.

“It still gives me chills when I talk about the Club and what it has meant to me,” Mr. Brown said. “It helped me grow, showed me how to be a better person and taught me leadership and the importance of giving back.”

“I love this building because it’s been a large part of my life,” Gene said. “I’ll be here when it gets torn down and I’ll be sad, but seeing the kids walk into the new building… (Mr. Brown paused to picture the moment)… Just the excitement of it!”

Mr. Brown feels that the new DeSoto Club, along with the new development taking place west of the Club location, will be a catalyst for the revitalization of the whole community. “The new DeSoto Boys & Girls Club will be the neighborhood’s Club and help the community in so many ways,” he said.