A building is just that. Something put together with bricks and mortar, often times cold and without personality.
From the outside, the Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County might look like just a building. But it's not. Because on the inside, while it might be a new facility, it's filled with decades of love. And it's a love that is close to the heart of Stephon Tuitt.
Stephon Tuitt lent his support to the new Boys & Girls Club in Plymouth, Indiana.
Tuitt has lent his hand to the efforts to rebuild the Boys & Girls Club of Marshall County because of what it means to his fiancée, Brittany Payne, and her family. Payne's grandparents, JoAnn and Leonard Isban, first opened the club in her hometown of Plymouth, Indiana in 1995, fulfilling their passion for wanting a place for local youth to be able to go after school and be in a safe environment where they could learn and grow.
The demand outgrew the building, so it was time to take it to the next level. Payne's mother, Susan Payne, is on the board of directors for the club and the passion passed down from the late JoAnn Isban helped drive her to make the new club one where kids can enjoy even more activities than ever. The new club, which will open to kids on March 12 and have a dedication ceremony on March 15, doubled in size to 12,000 square feet and now is on two floors. For the first time it will have a 'little's program,' accepting kids as young as kindergarten. The changes are massive, but the heart that began it all still beats.
"My parents had a passion for kids and thought they should have a place where they could go after school, and not be by themselves," said Susan Payne, whose father is still an honorary board member. "They wanted them to have constructive time after school. My mom loved kids. When they started the club, she later told me she didn't know if they would have one kid show up when they opened the club. And about 30-35 kids came and she was so happy. It just grew from there.
"She passed away a few years ago. One of the greatest things during her viewing was someone came through the line who was a club kid and said I am so grateful for that club. I don't know where I would have been if they didn't have that in town. That meant so much to me. I am so grateful we had it, even if it just helped one kid that is all that mattered. And we know it helped more."
While Tuitt didn't grow up in that community, he was a kid who went to the Boys & Girls Club on occasion, and now is someone who wants to give back. He attended fundraising events for the new club, and plans to stay involved.
"I am so happy Stephon and I came back for the fundraiser," said Brittany Payne. "My grandmother was so passionate about it. I wish she could be here to see it. Our town is so small and close knit. I can't even express what it's like, what he does, when he comes back and gives back to the community I grew up in. It's so special."
For Tuitt, it's just a part of what he believes someone in his position should do, and he is happy to do it.
"You build relationships with friends at the Boys & Girls Club, especially when your mom would be working late," said Tuitt. "It was always fun to go to one.
"And now for me to have the opportunity to give back, it's very important. You don't know some of these kid's backgrounds. For them to have a place where they can still be kids, and you can instill positivity in their lives, it's a key. You want them to be able to have fun, enjoy life, and be kids, and they can do that there and they have a place where they can enjoy their youth. In today's society the kids are growing up very fast. It's very important to have these programs installed for any kids.
"When you are part of the Steelers, you get involved with the community, you want to be a positive role model for kids. It helps them see a better future in themselves. For my fiancé's family to be a part of the club, it's very important to me. I am happy to be able to help."