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Apr 29, 2024

Rising Leadership of The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry

Libby O'Regan

Photography By

The future of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry remains dependent on the two biggest drivers of its past sustainability: a focus on serving the mission and strong leadership.

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Most people intrinsically know the value of the Boys & Girls Club. You’ve probably heard anecdotal stories of former Club kids. But when you see data showing the Club’s influence on higher graduation rates, better test scores, healthier lifestyles, and stronger self-esteem, the statement that “Boys & Girls Clubs change lives” rings true. 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry charter is a prime example – it has been changing the lives of our area’s youth for 38 years by providing after-school and summer programming. It’s much more than a safe place to go; it’s where great futures start.  

Meet the rising leaders of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, Jaala Miller, Ryan Wise, Pamela Castle, and DeLauren Brown

Members of our community are often surprised to learn the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry operates 10 clubs in Jasper and Beaufort counties. The clubs are Bluffton, Broad River, Hardeeville, Hilton Head Island, Lady’s Island, Ridgeland, Shanklin, St. Helena, Whale Branch Elementary and Whale Branch Middle School. Within the 10 locations, only two have their own dedicated buildings – Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. The other eight locations operate in the schools.

To better grasp the structure of the club here, think of the Lowcountry as the umbrella organization. It holds the national Boys & Girls Club charter. The Lowcountry office does all the staffing and payroll, offers human resources, carries the insurance, writes safety policies and procedures, and develops programming in conjunction with the national BGCA office. Individual locations share the same mission, focus on membership and implementing programming, and oversee day-to-day operations.  

Like any organization that has been around for 38 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry has gone through significant change. Doors and locations have opened and then closed, CEO’s have been hired and retired, and programming has evolved to serve the changing needs of the children it serves.

What has kept the organization’s continued success are two things: a clear mission and leadership. Talk to any staff member within the organization and you will hear them rattle off the mission unintentionally. Make no mistake – this is not a mission statement dreamt up by corporate America and hung on the wall to check a box. Rather, it is believed and felt to the core. The mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. That mission is pursued daily, in almost every interaction between staff and club members.

The second component of the BGC of the Lowcountry’s longevity is its leadership. Many people recognize the names and faces of Molly Hornbeak, now director of resource development for Bluffton, and Kim Likins, former executive director of Hilton Head Island’s Club. North of the Broad, you might know Kim Sullivan, who is now director of resource development for Northern Beaufort and Jasper County clubs. But fewer people know the newer faces of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry. 

The newer BGC leaders are full of energy and ideas. They unknowingly share a lot in common despite being physically separated by miles and working under the direction of different area boards of directors. These Lowcountry leaders all desire a well-funded, sustainable organization that serves the mission. They all have a passion to reach more children and they have exciting plans for the future.

Here’s a look at the bright, enthusiastic, and collaborative rising leadership of the Boys & Girls Club of the Lowcountry covering 10 locations with one mission.

DeLauren Brown, Chief Operating Officer

When DeLauren Brown got a job 13 years ago as a youth development professional at Joel E. Smilow Boys & Girls Club in Georgia, she considered it a placeholder while pursuing a career as an attorney. Like many others who work for BGC, her passion for youth development and belief in the mission has kept her working with the organization, even as she has moved to different states. Today, as chief operating officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, Brown supports all 10 clubs with a primary focus on safety, policy, and a high-quality club experience. 

Brown focuses on partnerships like the ones that have been formed with Beaufort County and Jasper County school districts. Working together has allowed BGC of the Lowcountry to blend school offerings, academics, programming, and fun to create an overall experience. 

For Brown, it’s moments like attending high school graduations of club members she encountered when they were in elementary school, seeing children learn new things, and witnessing passions ignited through things like camping, race car building, and cooking classes offered by the clubs. 

Brown wouldn’t trade the hard work for anything. 

“Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry spans its services from Beaufort County to Jasper County – that’s an incredibly large coverage,” said Brown, who is clearly up to the task. “Our goal is to make a lasting impact for youth across the entire community and within the reach of all 10 clubs. Whether you are on staff, a board member, volunteer, or donor, a unifying vision will bring everyone together. The need is immense in all the Lowcountry, and the area that we cover.”

Pam Castle, Director of Community and Program Engagement

May 2024 marks seven years with BGC for Pamela Castle. Today, she’s the director of community and program engagement and responsible for managing the eight Lowcountry locations that operate in the schools within Beaufort and Jasper counties. 

Castle serves as the liaison between the Lowcountry and the district to ensure that both visions are being implemented to enrich the lives of youth. She works with the site directors at each of the eight locations, which is a tall order when it comes to programming and membership. As the mother of two children, she says it’s a rewarding and gratifying experience to be able to see programs implemented and youth progressing. Pamela also works with the parents of club members, ensuring that the experience is good for not just the youth or teen, but the entire family. 

Castle has been able to expand the offered services and locations within the past few months to provide a safe place for children and teens that they did not have access to before. She was instrumental in starting the Congaree Teen Outreach Program, which is offered to teens for career development. 

Castle recalls a recent incident where she was able to intervene in a situation that was particularly gratifying. A girl who had been bullied became the bully. Through working with the club member, Castle was able to address the core of the issue and identify the root cause. 

“We’re making progress,” Castle said. “We’re reaching more kids and expanding more programs! It’s exciting to see it move forward.”

Jaala Miller, Unit Director for Bluffton Club

Though her official title is unit director of the Bluffton Boys & Girls Club, on any given day Jaala Miller is the bus driver, the Smart Girls Program director, Cheer captain, social media manager, and overall coordinator of organized chaos. She’s proof positive of the BGCA tagline, “Whatever it takes to build great futures.” 

Miller has been with BGC for 26 years and has held almost every position within the organization. She started as a high school student volunteer, she’s been part-time at the front desk, a dance instructor, and held full-time youth development positions as teen assistant, teen director, and then program director. Through all this, Miller received her undergraduate degree from USCB and two master’s degrees from Ashford University, while pursuing her professional freelance photography and multiple business ventures with her husband, Brandon, a Hilton Head Island native. They have two daughters who are members of the Bluffton Club.

For Miller, what fuels her passion for BGC is the mission and seeing the impact firsthand.

“I find it most rewarding that so many of our current members’ parents, aunts and uncles came through these same doors,” Miller said. “It’s rewarding to see alumni return with their eyes enlarged with happy tears and a warm embrace as they walk in their club building and express the impact the club had in their lives until this day. I enjoy running into alumni and hearing them share a memorable story from their club days. There’s something so magical about that feeling.”

Miller strives for a more sustainable club that is well-funded and secure. The Bluffton Club would love to be able to serve more children within their walls, and needs more staff (which requires funding) to be able to achieve that goal. The current waitlist to join the Bluffton Club is more than 200 youth.

Ryan Wise, Unit Director for Hilton Head Island

Ryan Wise is the newly promoted unit director for the Hilton Head Island Club. During his previous role as assistant unit director, he increased membership, started a workforce readiness program for teens, created community partnerships, and improved the culture within the club. His primary role is overseeing the operations of the club, which includes facilities management, program implementation and execution, coordinating with external groups, and supervising the staff. 

Wise knows it takes a village to help each club member achieve success and he works diligently to build his team up to support the club. That goal is common with staff members across BGCA: “Whatever it takes” is the motto.

As Hilton Head Island’s club enters this new phase of leadership, Wise’s goals include increasing community presence and building on the Youth Worker Program. The club members are thriving this spring in the soccer program, learning golf with The First Tee – Lowcountry, and growing with Teen Skill Labs. Across the board, members are being challenged to step out of their comfort zones and build on their varied interests. 

“The best part of my day is seeing the smiles on our kids’ faces when they arrive at the club after school,” said Wise, adding that the members are the meaning behind the mission. Providing members with new experiences is also rewarding for him. “We recently took Club members on a boat, and a few members told me it was the coolest experience they’ve ever had because they had never had the opportunity to be on a boat before,” he said.

Originally from West Virginia, Wise holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in higher education from Mercer University. He is a former college basketball coach who knows that winning in basketball is not much different from winning at the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head because in both, you must put in the effort to work as a team to be successful.

The future of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry remains dependent on the two biggest drivers of its past sustainability: a focus on serving the mission and strong leadership. With these four leaders, the organization is poised to grow in this vast Lowcountry, to serve more deserving children, to produce strong outcomes, and ultimately to change the lives of thousands of youth. Learn more at 

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