FORT SMITH — The new chief executive officer of the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs said she intends to take the organization to the next level.
Beth Presley will assume her new role September 6. She will succeed Jerry Glidewell, who will retire as executive director Sept. 15.
Presley said the key to the nonprofit organization is to provide all youth in the community a place where they can feel wanted, involved and safe by offering a variety of activities and programs. To this end, it will focus on expanding its activities outside of athletics going forward, such as those related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; health and wellness; music; and art.
Presley said she’ll work to improve the organization’s facilities as well.
“We have four wonderful units in Fort Smith,” Presley said. “We have Hunts Park. We’ve got some amazing board members and donors that have taken care of these, but there’s still some things, as every nonprofit, that we need help and support with.”
The organization is finalizing a capital campaign for a renovation and expansion to its Jeffrey Boys & Girls Club, according to Presley. Money still needs to be raised to provide the club, which will be renamed the Jeffrey-Glidewell unit, with things such as technology improvements and furniture.
Glidewell said about $3 million has been raised for the project since March. The project will expand program areas and add meeting space in the Jeffrey club, including those for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and music instruction. It will also involve new bathrooms, a new administrative wing, easier access to the club and safety features, as well as two new futsal courts outside the club. Futsal is a soccer-like game played on a hard surface.
“It’ll be like a brand-new facility,” Glidewell said.
Glidewell said the project will be a 9- to 12-month process. He expressed hope a groundbreaking will happen and construction will begin later this fall or winter.
Presley also hopes to increase membership and improve brand awareness for the Boys & Girls Clubs, among other things.
Presley is coming into the organization as the former vice president and director of community outreach and education for the Arvest Opportunity Fund, a position she held until Aug. 26. Presley said the fund is a subsidiary of Arvest Bank dedicated to helping “underbanked” residents get loan opportunities paired with financial education.
Presley began working at Arvest Bank in 2012, according to a Boys & Girls Clubs news release. She previously served as the bank’s marketing manager for the Fort Smith region, a job that involved helping provide support to nonprofit organizations and local fundraising events. She has a bachelor of science degree in education from Missouri State University and a master of science degree in kinesiology from the University of Illinois.
Presley has also worked as assistant athletic director for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and the executive director for the First Tee of Fort Smith, a nonprofit youth golf program that ended in late 2019, the news release states. Presley’s career at First Tee was marked by her leading many nonprofit seminars on fundraising and board development, as well as receiving the 2007 World Golf Foundation Chairman’s Award.
Presley said the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and how it changed interpersonal relationships made her realize she missed getting out in the community and helping its youth become productive residents like she did when she worked for the First Tee of Fort Smith. First Tee used the game of golf to develop life skills in children.
“I think this position is probably the only one that would’ve got me to leave Arvest Bank just because it is the premier youth organization in Fort Smith,” Presley said. “It has an amazing board, it has had great leadership under Jerry and it has a team that’s driven and passionate about helping kids.”
Sam Sicard, board chairman for the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs, said a search committee with the organization recommended the board offer the CEO position to Presley after considering candidates from across the country. The board unanimously voted to do so in early August.
Glidewell said he will serve in an advisory role in time between when Presley begins her new job and he retires. He said Presley brings “some fresh new energy” to the Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as a considerable amount of experience in different areas and contacts within the community.
“She has a strong interest in young people and the future of Fort Smith, so she’s got the personality and the drive to really do great things here,” Glidewell said.
Glidewell said his full-time career with Boys & Girls Clubs started in 1979 when he was hired as the executive director of the Johnson County Boys Club following his graduation from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville that same year. He left Johnson County in 1982 to become the unit director for the Stephens Boys & Girls Club in Fort Smith before being promoted to director of operations for Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs in 1987. He became executive director of the organization in 1990.