Q&A with Maggie Lewis, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club

Keywords Philanthropy

q&a-maggie-lewisMaggie Lewis’ life has come full circle.

As a child, Lewis’ mom, who had her at the age of 16, would drop Lewis and her brother off at the Boys & Girls Clubs when she was working multiple jobs trying to put food on the table.

“While I was having fun, my mom was working, hustling, getting money to take care of our family,” said Lewis, 46.

Now, she’s the person in charge. Lewis, who is also a city-county councilor, became CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis last May.

“Growing up as that poor child at the Boys & Girls Clubs, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find myself in a position of being the CEO of such an important organization,” she said.

IBJ spoke to Lewis about her goals for the organization—and her future in politics.

What are a few of your goals for the Boys & Girls Clubs?

One of my top goals is to ensure that we’re laying the foundation for the organization to be around another 125 years. I want to get our numbers up. On any given day, we have about 1,000 young folks. We usually get the elementary-school-age kiddos. What is it we need to be doing differently to attract teens to stay with us?

And I would like to expand our hours. We don’t do weekend programming and I believe we should.

What is the biggest challenge facing the organization?

It’s fundraising—ensuring we have the dollars we need to ensure that we can operate 10 locations. We, like other not-for-profits, have got to be creative on how we reach out to donors and attract donors

The Boys & Girls Clubs serve underserved youth. Do you see the impacts of child poverty in the clubs?

To know that we serve kiddos that look forward to coming to our space just to have a decent meal, that means something to me. When you’re at home and your lights get cut off and there’s no food there, there’s not much hope. When they come to us, we’re showing them what the possibilities are.

I often share my story with them. I grew up on food stamps. That was not my final stop. We don’t want a child to give up, thinking there’s no hope and possibility. My mom instilled in me early on that I was going to do something great. She never told me what it was, but she said, “You’re not the product of this environment.”

You faced adversity pretty publicly last year when five Democrats worked with Republicans to remove you as City-County Council president. What did you learn from that experience?

I’ve lived my life to serve God first. He opens doors and He closes doors. Sometimes when I won’t move on my own, He moves me.

What advice would you give to other women who are interested in getting involved in politics?

When I was elected City-County Council president, I remember turning over my shoulder and seeing several older African-American women smiling and cheering me on and blowing kisses to me. I realized that day how much being the first female to hold that seat meant to people in the community.

I encourage all women, regardless of party, to run for higher office. I really think we attack problems differently than men. I think it’s our time.

You are supporting Joe Hogsett in the upcoming mayoral election, but would yoube interestedin running as mayor?

I like the sound of Mayor Lewis. It has a nice ring to it.•

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