A New Chapter Begins

WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES courtesy Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs

Jan 1, 2023 | Featured, People


Beth Presley Sets to Lead Boys & Girls Clubs


Beth Presley is a groundbreaker in more ways than one. Taking over as CEO of Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs, she’s not only the first new face in that role in forty-three years, she’s also the first woman to hold that position in the history of the local organization.

And while there’s many things that brought the former fact to reality — such as her fundraising experience, her time leading nonprofits focused on youth athletics and her stint in the business world — the significance of the latter is something still being driven home.

“As I’ve made my rounds to the units during the introduction process, I talk to the young ladies and introduce myself and they ask, ‘Are you new here?’” she says. “I say, ‘Yes, I’ve taken Mr. Jerry’s position.’ They’re like, ‘You’re the boss of everyone?’ I say, ‘Well, yes, but we all work together as a team. Do you know that you could be me one day?’ And they say, ‘No, I couldn’t do that.’

“I just sit there and encourage them and say yes, you can. I think that is what I love most about talking to these young girls, giving them options. There’s one particular girl who I see playing with a basketball all the time. I asked her, ‘Are you going to sign up for basketball?’ She said, ‘No, my mom won’t sign me up because I’m a girl.’ That stuff just breaks my heart.”

Beth inherits an organization that has benefited mightily from consistency at the helm. There have been only five executive directors before her in the organization’s history, the most recent being Jerry Glidewell, who served for more than four decades before stepping into retirement last fall. Upon this rock-solid foundation she’s eager to continue to move the organization forward into new programs, services, and capital improvements.

“There’s so many opportunities few offer our kids and I want the community and the kids to know that we are just not a babysitting service,” she says. “We are here for leadership opportunities, college scholarship opportunities, and to help them become better citizens so that they can improve their lives and give back in the future.

“Fort Smith is such a great community. If we can just harness this energy that we have and start young with these kids and their families, I think we can be the conduit for children to make the most of these amazing opportunities.”

The mission and programming of Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs, founded in 1928 as Fort Smith Boys Club, are well known on at least some level throughout the city, with after-school care and youth sports arguably the most easily brought to mind. But as Beth points out, there’s far more happening at the group’s four locations than most people realize.

The Boys & Girls Clubs serves 2,200 children each year through programs that include mentoring, tutoring, music, and arts in addition to the familiar football, basketball and other sports leagues. In 2021, the organization served more than 109,410 meals and snacks and in 2022 awarded more than $32,000 in scholarships to members.

“I’ve found out the community knows a lot, but not everything about what we do at the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Beth says. “When I was visiting our local civic organizations, I talked about how large our after-school program is, that we provide transportation, that we provide meals for free at clubs. A lot of community members don’t know about that and once they hear it, their eyes get really big, and they say, ‘That’s incredible.’”

A self-described Army brat, Beth Presley’s family eventually settled in Springfield, Missouri. She attended William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, where she was a two-sport athlete, playing volleyball and basketball. She graduated from Missouri State in Springfield and completed her graduate work at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana, earning a master’s degree in marketing and athletics promotion.

Following her former high school sweetheart and husband Darryl’s career, the couple settled in Greenwood with their two daughters, Camryn and MaKenzie, now grown. Beth’s professional career began by helping launch and then lead First Tee of Fort Smith for nine years. After that, she served almost four years as assistant athletic director for the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.

She comes to the Boys & Girls Clubs after a decade in marketing and community outreach with Arvest Bank.

“I was approached by a couple of [Boys & Girls Clubs] board members to see if I’d be interested in the position,” she says. “We were talking in general, and I basically said I really missed working with youth. I loved what I did for the First Tee and the youth of the community, and I missed the nonprofit work. And I have a passion for raising money.”

Beth said the one piece of advice her predecessor gave her as she stepped into her new role was to honor the heritage of the organization’s past, and she can see no better way to do that than to keep it moving forward into new areas of relevance. That means addressing the changing needs of members from the current capital campaign to renovate the Jeffrey-Glidewell Unit to new programming and services.

“What I am most excited about with the new Jeffrey-Glidewell Unit is we are going to have a STEAM area dedicated to science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” she says. “We’re going to have a dance studio, a music area. We have a great music program right now with volunteers who come in and teach piano and guitar, but I’d love to expand that. Health and wellness, we’re working with the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, expanding our research opportunities and grant opportunities with them to provide health and wellness.

“I have also had meetings with The Guidance Center. A lot of our children experience trauma in their lives and we would like to have social workers to come in on a weekly basis and meet with our kids.”

All of that takes work, expertise and of course, more funding, none of which are challenges Beth hasn’t seen before. She said the tenured staff represents a tremendous resource, one that, when combined with community involvement, is capable of accomplishing remarkable things.

“The average tenure of my full-time staff is fifteen years,” she says. “It is amazing how dedicated and passionate they are about the mission, because let me tell you, they are not paid a lot. I want to take their energy and their passion and move it into some different areas of service that we can provide the community.

“At the same time, we need all levels of community involvement. We need advocates out here. We need boots on the ground. We need kids in the clubs. We need parents involved. The one thing I’d want someone reading this to take away from it is to just get involved. We need you!”

FSBGC Fast Facts

  • Serving the Community Since 1928
  • 4 Unit Locations: Stephens, Evans, Goldtrap, Jeffrey-Glidewell Unit (Under Renovations)
  • Hunts Park: New Lighted Turf Soccer, Baseball, Football Complex
  • 27 Board of Directors Members
  • After-School Shuttle Program: 7 Vans Servicing 15 Schools & 250 Kids Daily
  • Mentor & Tutoring Programs
  • Athletic & Activity Programs: Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, Cheer & Pom, Fishing
  • Cox Innovation Technology Lab in Each Unit, Esports Coming Soon
  • TJ Guitar & Music Programs
  • Photography & Art Programs
  • Summer Programs
  • 2021 – 109,410 Meals & Snacks Served to Members
  • Over $32,000 College Scholarship Awarded In 2022
  • Over 2,200 Children Served Annually


Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs
6015 Boys Club Lane, Fort Smith

Do South Magazine

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