By Carey Smith/Photos by Sierra Smithers

Springfield native Tiffany Mathis recently became the CEO and executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Illinois (BGCCIL). Her passion and dedication are unmistakable. “I really love that I was able to work somewhere you can just be all in,” she said.

Mathis was originally introduced to BGCCIL through a two-year stint in AmeriCorps and later served as the director of fund development and community engagement, as well as a central unit director for five years, before assuming her current role.

BGCCIL operates nine facilities throughout Springfield, including a stand-alone facility on Monroe and 15th streets.  The other eight Clubs are located in Springfield elementary and middle schools, providing services Monday through Thursday from 2:30-6:30 p.m.  These programs serve 1,356 youth, employ 179 staff and offer homework assistance and fun activities, as well as a nutritious snack or a warm meal (depending on location) in partnership with Central Illinois Food Bank and Nelson’s Catering.

The mission of BGCCIL is to “serve the youth who need us most and influence them in a way to become productive, caring and concerned citizens of their space and of their community, and grow in their leadership.  We provide safe spaces with caring adults and mentorship, guidance and scholarships.  It’s a very holistic approach to supporting youth,” said Mathis.  Mathis also serves on BGCCIL’s national advisory council for LBGTQ+ issues, focusing on youth inclusion.

In addition to her work at BGCCIL, Mathis serves as a board member for Springfield Public School District 186.  She said, “It’s nice to come into that role and have an understanding of how these schools are  functioning, having relationships with the administrators and the teachers, the paraprofessionals and the custodians – having conversations and building relationships.”

Mathis is also on the board of trustees at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, president of the Rotary Club of Midtown Springfield and an Eastern Star through the local Masonic Lodge.  As a woman of color, Mathis said, “I feel a great deal of responsibility to lend my voice or lend my time.  I really try to do my best to be visibly doing things so that people see some representation.  It’s important.”

Mathis also serves as the vice chair of the Serve Illinois Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps.  “To be an AmeriCorps alum and now vice-chairing the commission for the state of Illinois is an amazing opportunity to give back in a different way to an organization that honestly changed my life and sparked my interest for a deeper commitment to community service,” she explained.

Mathis has three children with her husband, Frank, and one stepchild.  Mathis said she makes sure her children accompany her to meetings and events, as she accompanied her parents in their many activities and learned firsthand the importance of being involved in one’s community.

BGCCIL offers memberships to any child for only $40 per year, so the organization is funded mainly through grants and community partnerships. Mathis invites business leaders and community members to visit the club for a fresh look at all that is happening.

“It makes us stronger when we’re working together,” she said. “Yes, we have our needs, but I want a gift to be impactful to whoever is giving that gift, whether it be time, talent, money.  We have a lot of conversations of our needs, but what of these needs speak to you?  What are you passionate about, what does your business stand for and how can we ensure that we direct that gift in a way that supports the mission and vision of your organization as well?”

Carey Smith is an alum of Leadership Springfield and her group worked on a marketing project for BGCCIL two decades ago.