BEEVILLE – Steve Barrera spent countless hours during his childhood bounding throughout the Beeville Boys & Girls Club.
When he was a kid, the club was his home away from home.
“I grew up here. From the minute they would open, to the minute they would close, I was here,” Barrera said. “I would come every day. ... This is where I grew up.”
Now, as an adult, it’s his home away from home once again.
The 21-year-old lifelong Beeville resident is in his second year as the club’s unit director.
“I never figured I’d be the unit director, but I always wanted to work here,” the 2017 A.C. Jones High grad said during an interview at his office at the club last week.
“It’s just fun to me. I enjoy it. I enjoy being with the kids.”
Barrera was installed as the interim unit director in December 2018. The next month, John Corkill, the club’s executive director, lifted the interim tag and installed Barrera as the full-time unit director.
He’s overseen two of the club’s youth basketball seasons and one of the club’s flag football seasons.
He also oversees the day-to-day operation of the club.
That part of his job has taken on a whole new meaning over the past several months.
The club was closed for nearly three months earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and just reopened at the beginning of June.
Reopening meant restrictions, which include temperature checks upon entry and limiting the number of children to 30 at a time.
Thankfully, Barrera said, they haven’t hit the maximum on any one day. The club, he said, has been averaging 20 to 25 per day.
“If we’re not open, where are the kids? What are the kids doing? That’s my biggest thing,” he said about discussions he had with people about reopening the club at the shutdown. “Those 30 kids, if they’re not here, where are they? That’s how I see it. What are they doing? They might be getting in trouble or doing stuff they’re not supposed to be doing.
“I want to be open as much as we can all the time just to give the kids a place to go.”
The club helped keep Barrera out of trouble when he was a kid, and he wants it to do the same for the youth of Beeville now.
“It’s so important for a kid,” he said about the importance of the club. “If they’re not here, you don’t know where they’re at, and you don’t know what they’re doing.
“... If they’re here, there’s structure; there are rules.”
Kids can also find role models at the club, Barrera said.
“I would say our biggest responsibility is ... setting a good example for the kids,” he said.
“They see the Trojan quarterback, Seth Gomez; they see the people who have been through here. Saleen Flores, she’s a college (softball) pitcher. They see these examples, and it’s like, ‘I want to be them.’
“Waydale Jones is always here. He’s one of my best friends. It’s like, ‘Hey, he’s a Division I football player. I want to be him.’
“It’s about setting the right example and having the right people here.”
Barrera has settled in comfortably as the new unit director.
So comfortable, in fact, that he says it might be exactly the kind of thing he could consider a career.
“I would love it to be a career; I really would,” he said. ... To know you had just a little piece (in helping a kid), that makes me happy.
“It makes me feel good to see the kids grow. And I like being a part of that process.”
Kevin J. Keller is the sports editor at the Bee-Picayune and the Advance-Guard and can be reached at 343-5223, or at sports@MySouTex.com, or follow him on Twitter, @beegoliadsports.