Merriweather urges kids to make the most of opportunities
by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
by ARIEL McRAE | Associate Editor
The Humboldt community came together last week for an evening of brotherhood, benevolence, bravery, belonging and brilliance; and do not forget burgers and birds. The 11th annual Boys & Girls Club of Humboldt’s Bird & Burger fundraiser was a huge success.
Although plans originally were to hold the event outside on the Humboldt Senior Citizens Center parking lot, the weather did not cooperate. So instead, Thursday evening’s event was held in the club gymnasium. The event has been held in the gym many times in the past, but this year, the committee wanted to change things up a bit for an outside spring outing. Unfortunately, spring is the rainy season here in West Tennessee. The change in location did not dampen the spirit of those attending the fundraiser one bit.
B&G board chairman, Brad Webster, welcomed everyone to the Bird & Burger dinner. He introduced the event emcee, Katrina Smith. Club members led the group in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the club reciting the club mission and club code.
Rev. Joseph Montgomery offered the prayer before dinner was served. Guests had their choice of chicken (bird) or hamburger (burger), along with the trimmings. Andrew Nielson provided dinner music as guests enjoyed the meal.
After dinner, club member Kendya Linsey read her Youth of the Year essay. Throughout her essay, she detailed her journey with the Humboldt Boys & Girls Club from when she was younger and all the kids held each other accountable to when she became a junior staffer during covid. Linsey explained how hard it was to experience covid as a school aged kid and how grateful she was to the club for being somewhere kids could turn to do their homework and process the things they were learning in school. When Linsey turned 17, she was hired as a program staffer. In the future, because of the club’s influence, she hopes to one day open up her own facility and focus a great deal on mental health awareness within a
Something new this year was the fireside chat. Boys & Girls Club Director Gladys Robinson had three guests come on stage. Robyn Barnett, a former member and volunteer, was asked how the club made her a better person. Barnett explained that once the club opened in 2011, it became an outlet; a place of refuge and somewhere that helped her build her confidence. She detailed how she did not know how to love herself back then and the staff at the Humboldt Boys & Girls Club helped her to believe she was loved. Parent Brittney Keller was asked how the club helped from the viewpoint of a parent with children being members. Keller is a foster parent who has parented over 25 children in the city of Humboldt. She said that when she calls the club and tells them she has another member to sign up, Robinson always makes room for her. She said that one of the teenagers under her care said the club made them feel safe and loved. Keller believes the club prepares a child for real life. Club member Linsey was asked how the Boys & Girls club prepared her for becoming an adult. She told the room that the Boys & Girls club has given her scholarships and allowed her to be surrounded by positive roll models. She was adamant that the cub can give her anything she needs.
The highlight of the evening was featured speaker AJ Merriweather. Club member Karmelo Truett had the honor of introducing Merriweather.
Merriweather is a graduate of South Side High School in Jackson, Tenn. As a standout basketball player for the Hawks, he earned a full athletic scholarship at East Tennessee State University where he played along side former Humboldt Viking, Desonta Bradford. Merriweather excelled at ETSU while pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering Technology.
He was drafted by the world famous Harlem Globetrotters where he played both nationally and internationally, which was mostly in Europe as well as two trips to China. He was known as “Money” during his time as a Globetrotter.
During his speech, he spoke to the youth directly and explained how he found himself in his dream job. He told the kids that bigger things are out there and to keep their minds on their dreams. He explained his belief that anyone can accomplish anything. He said that it is important to start where you are and not to miss an opportunity just because you are waiting for a bigger one. His main advice was to take advantage of current opportunities, maximize opportunities that present themselves and realize how small the window for opportunities is so you can always try your best to utilize your time. He told the club members to make sure they always ask questions and try their hardest.
“Don’t be nervous or scared and always go the extra mile,” Merriweather concluded.