Drew Davis (right) raised the money to donate computer headsets for the Ken Carlson Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Young man’s initiative helps boost learning at Winston-Salem Boys & Girls Club

By: Dan Childs

Combining a philanthropic spirit with a bit of resourcefulness and determination, a seventh-grade student has made a difference for members of the Ken Carlson Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

That student, 12-year-old Drew Davis, was moved when his mother received an email from The Salvation Army detailing its need for a specific type of computer hardware. Like many Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs, the Winston-Salem club offers computer and internet access to children – a crucial need at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has closed many schools, necessitating distance learning. Many of the children using the club computer facilities are from lower-income homes where equipment and an adequate internet connection may be issues.

The local school system has closed its doors for the first nine weeks of the term and are conducting virtual classes. Normally, the Winston-Salem club is open after school, but with the current situation, the club’s computer lab is open throughout the day. Some 65 students are attending the learning sessions at the club, using the club’s computers or those supplied to them by the school system.

“We had a very unique need,” said Major Andrew Wiley, Winston-Salem area commander. “We were seeing that the kids were easily distracted by all the other kids working around them on their computers. We realized that computer headsets could help them block out the distractions around them so they could focus on their own work.”

When Drew’s mother, Kelli Balash, received the email appeal from the Army, he was inspired to take action. He created a GoFundMe page to ask for donations, thinking that he might raise $1,000 within about four days. He did a little better than that. Within six hours, some $1,700 had been donated. It was enough to purchase 100 headsets. A few days later, Drew and his family delivered the headsets to the Boys & Girls Club. There were enough to issue one to each of the kids in the computer lab, along with some for children staying at the Salvation Army shelter.

Sylvia Adams, the club’s executive director, leads a staff that has a strong commitment to raising academic performance of the members. “We have story after story of kids who have improved their schoolwork because of the club,” Major Wiley said.

“Drew really is meeting a very unique need,” he added. “He’s quite an incredible young man. Most kids would be out playing ball or something, and here he is taking on and managing this project.”