Brenda Buckner attended Washington Elementary School. So did her father. Naturally, her kids did, too.
It was 20 years ago, while her daughter was a Washington student, that Buckner was hired to work at the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri’s program at her old elementary school. Over those two decades, Buckner has seen and experienced a lot. However, her memories of those early days remain vivid.
“Kids, when you are new, they will kind of challenge you,” she said. “But they touched my heart.”
Buckner worked in various roles at the Boys & Girls Club’s Washington site for 18 years before moving over to be the assistant site director In Dresden a couple of years ago. Her 20 years of service make her the club’s longest tenured employee.
Tyler Hudson, the club’s director of operations, said Buckner has been in different roles within the organization, ranging from being a youth development professional who works directly with the kids, to a site assistant and a site director.
“She’s done the whole gamut,” Hudson said. “It’s very valuable to have someone with her experience on the team. She has seen the changes through the organization’s history and all of the growth it has experienced over the past 15 years.”
In her day job as a food service worker at Smith-Cotton High School, Buckner gets to see some of those students who she helped nurture years ago in the club’s after-school program at Washington.
“I care for kids,” she said. “Now, at the high school, I see them come back and say, ‘Hey, Miss Brenda.’ I am seeing it at the high school more and more. You maybe touch a life, and you think, ‘Wow, they remember me.’”
Sometimes students don’t recognize her because it has been a few years since they last saw her at Washington. In those cases, she will ask if they went to the club and it will click with them.
“It makes you feel good,” she said of rekindling those memories.
In her current role at the Dresden site, Buckner handles a lot of administrative duties but she also runs one program, Smart Moves, which she said is similar to DARE in that it helps students make good decisions about avoiding drugs and alcohol. Her favorite Boys & Girls Club offering is the National Fine Arts program.
“I love that. I just love to see them be creative,” she said. “So many kids today just stay on the computers, but to watch them create art … just to see their faces if they get a ribbon.”
In her years of working at the club, Buckner said the most impactful program has been Power Hour, where students get homework assistance.
“Their grades come up and we see their face light up when they get their grade card,” she said. “It doesn’t work for all of them but a big majority over the years it has really helped.”
Hudson said Buckner’s most important trait is her welcoming personality.
“We’re all about building quality relationships with these kids and with Miss Brenda, they are always excited to see her. She brings a warmth and joy and good energy to the site,” he said. “She’s a wonderful employee for us and we’re hoping she stays with us for a lot longer.”
Buckner still feels the tug from the site that was home base for her for years.
“I miss my kids at Washington. I miss that school, but I love it (in Dresden), too,” she said. “I thought it would be a new challenge, and I think we’re doing pretty well.”
For now, Bucker expects to be around a little longer, continuing to make positive impressions on the club’s kids.
“I keep saying I am going to do a couple more and then retire, but I don’t know,” she said. “I feel it is a good program, a safe space for (children).”