There's a new face at the Athens Boys & Girls Club, but the organization didn't have to go far to find its newest director.
Candace Byrd-Vinson, a longtime educator and coach, started as the director of the local club in late August after former director, Duane LaRue, transferred to the Seminole Boys & Girls Club in Huntsville.
Boys & Girls Club of North Alabama President Patrick Wynn said the organization is excited to have someone local, who has close ties to the community, available for the kids.
“We feel that she is the perfect fit for the Athens Boys & Girls Club,” he said.
Suzanne Rainey Thompson, vice president of BGCNAL, agrees.
“Candace is going to be a wonderful asset to our community, club and the children we serve. I am thrilled to have her on board,” she said.
Byrd-Vinson believes the Boys & Girls Club creates a great environment for area kids and said she is excited to be part of it.
Having taught in the Lawrence County School system for 14 years, she believes her faith is what landed her the job back in the county where she not only grew up but also lives and attends church.
She put in five years at R.A. Hubbard High School in North Courtland before she decided it was time to try something different.
“The moment just came,” she said, adding she's now only driving eight minutes from home instead of making the commute to Lawrence County. “It's home, and everything is here.”
Byrd-Vinson was born and raised in Tanner. She attended Tanner High School and was a basketball standout under former coach Larry Greene. She went on to play college basketball at Birmingham-Southern College and received a degree in secondary education.
As the girls head basketball coach at R.A. Hubbard, she led the the team to a Class 1A state championship in 2017. Those accolades also earned her the title of a 2018 inductee into the Limestone Sports Hall of Fame.
When she was inducted, Greene told The News Courier Bryd-Vinson was “unselfish” and put others before herself. He said she had leadership ability and is an “excellent role model and excellent coach.”
Byrd-Vinson is married to Nicholas Vinson, who she said is a big supporter, and is the stepmother of Nicholas, 10, and Kylah, 18.
Athens Boys & Girls Club
Byrd-Vinson didn't attend the Boys & Girls Club growing up because she was involved in athletics, but she wishes she had. In fact, she encourages anyone ages 5–18 to attend.
It doesn't matter what part of the county the kids live in — Athens, Clements, Elkmont, Tanner, West Limestone, East Limestone or somewhere in between — she would love for families to come out and see what the club has to offer.
“We are accepting new kids,” she said. “It's a safe and fun environment.”
The Athens Boys & Girls Club offers homework help, one-on-one tutoring, sports, games, programs focused on wellness and the arts, leadership opportunities, a STEM lab and a Teen Center.
Byrd-Vinson said the club is incorporating more and more arts into their programming. She said the arts is not just about painting and drawing; the Boys & Girls Club is also implementing music.
“I love music,” she said. “I sing, and I believe children need music in their lives.”
The arts are so important to Byrd-Vinson, the club is currently looking for an art director.
Education is also important. Byrd-Vinson explained Power Hour is a time every day at the club when students are required to complete their homework or read.
The club also provides one meal daily.
Starting 4 p.m. Wednesday, the club will host a 9/11 Remembrance Day event. The event will include first responders from Athens Police Department, Limestone County Sheriff's Office, Athens Fire & Rescue and Athens-Limestone EMS.
Byrd-Vinson said the first responders will talk about what to do and what not to do in various situations. She said all are welcome to attend.
Athens Boys & Girls Club at 1017 W. Washington St. is open from 2:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 2:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. Fridays.
Club membership is $35 per week. However, scholarships are available.
“Come and see what you are missing out on,” Byrd-Vinson said. “It's a great environment.”
To find out more, email Byrd-Vinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 256-232-4298.