New Bern, N.C., --
NEW BERN, N.C. - As Marines painted over midnight black walls in what remained of an old nightclub, Dre Nix couldn’t help but smile with excitement over the vision of a new Boys & Girls Club coming to life.
13 Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, Marine Aircraft Group 26, 2nd Marine Air Wing, came together to lend a hand to the New Bern Boys & Girls Club as they were on a mission to create a place for teens in the program.
“They worked so hard,” said Nix, the area director of the New Bern Boys & Girls Club. “Words can’t even describe it. By the time they left that day, they had done about a weeks’ worth of work.”
The Marines traveled from their duty station at Marine Corps Air Station New River to roll up their sleeves and strip the remains of the old nightclub. They cleared rooms, repainted walls and moved furniture while building strong relationships with the local volunteers and as a unit.
“It was great to come out here and not only get a chance to do something for these kids but to do it while having fun with each other,” said Sgt. Pennie Hicks, company gunnery sergeant for air field operations with MWSS-272. “We don’t always get to interact with each other because of our different sections but during this project we were all painting walls side-by-side and even getting to share some laughs with the civilian contractors that came out.”
According to 1st Lt. Courtney Thompson, company commander for air field operations with the squadron, the volunteer opportunity gave the Marines the chance to go back to their roots and remember where they grew up. It let them think back to the programs they had available to them and the places they would appreciate in their youth to get guidance and grow from.
“The Marines understand that the community fosters the next generation,” said Thompson. “Whether that be inspiring some men and women to serve in the military, regardless of branch, or even if they don’t chose to be in the military, giving them the opportunity to mentor or be a leader in their community. It’s showing these young men and women what they can be.”
Nix is especially familiar with the impacts people can make in youths lives with their involvement as she was given a once in a lifetime opportunity that changed her life all because of one coach that believed in her.
“I moved from St. Vincent to Vancouver British Colombia when I was 14 or 15 years old,” said Nix. “I tried out for the national team to play [basket]ball and the coach said something to me that I’ll never forget. Everyone else wanted to cut me from try outs but one coach said ‘She may not have the best talent, but she works hard and she’s coachable.’ I’ll never forget that and that coach giving me that opportunity. That year, I joined the junior national team and traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and traveled the world because that coach saw something in me that everyone else was going to pass on. That specific memory at that age as a teenager is what I think of the most.”
According to Nix, volunteering with local youth organizations has held a special place in her heart because of the positive ways her life has been influenced by them. As a military spouse, she has traveled to many duty stations to include an overseas tour in Japan where she helped establish a youth club similar to the one in New Bern.
“It’s a proud feeling being a part of the whole Marine Corps family,” said Nix. “Everywhere I’ve gone they have always been there to lend a hand and reach out to these kids. It’s also a great feeling when I see Marines come back to the community to volunteer after they have been a part of the same organizations or others like it when they were growing up.”