What is your memory of a safe space growing up? For Gracie Miller, it was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Nappanee Clubhouse. She attended Club from the time she was 8-years-old until she was 16.
Looking back now as an adult, Miller can see how Club impacted her life.
“It was a happy place for me. It helps me now as I deal with younger cousins and such and how to deal with different situations in life,” she said.
She spends her days now working at her family’s business — Main Street Roasters, the coffee shop in downtown Nappanee. Her face still lights up when she talks about the people at Club who impacted her childhood.
“All the staff had their arms open up in a welcoming way. I felt like I could go to Mandy (Gerber, Nappanee area director) about anything. She was like a second mom to me,” Miller said.
Club gave Miller opportunities to learn about herself and challenged her to try new things.
“I was Youth Of The Year my freshman year of high school. That was big for me. I had to open up and tell my life story,” she said. “Club also brought out my competitive side. Doing basketball at the Club was great. I got to push myself a little harder. It taught me not to quit — that I can go further and further.”
It also helped her learn about people outside her personal friend group.
“I realize that we all come from different places in life. We all have our own stories. The Club helped me understand that,” Miller said. “I felt the Club was a safe space for me. It was also a fun and energizing place. I never wanted to leave.”
That’s why she said she would encourage people who haven’t experienced Club to give it a try.
“I would recommend it for any kid. It’s a safe place and a second home. The people there care for you and want to help you through things.”