Molly Hornbeak

Witnessing Miracles at the Boys and Girls Club

May 2021 IssueMolly0521
by Michele Roldán-Shaw
Photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World

LOVE. It’s the number-one thing children need and a specialty of Molly Hornbeak. “That’s what I give, that’s what I’m full of, and it’s what I try to help these kids learn to give others,” she declares emphatically.

But to say Miss Molly only gives love belies the astonishing amount of hard work, dedication and discipline she has put into her job over the last several decades. Since the Boys and Girls Club of Bluffton opened in 1998, she has been the one and only director.

“We have witnessed lives we were literally saving,” said Molly, who has guided 5,000 children through the program. “Today we’re watching these kids, who I thought weren’t listening to a word I said and probably put 50 percent of these grey hairs on my head, come back and say thank you. We’re watching their children and their children’s children come through our doors.”

When Miss Molly first interviewed for the position, she was an accountant who didn’t even know what the Boys and Girls Club was about. After getting hired she spent the first three days observing, then she went home and cried. It began to sink in that she was vested with authority, and being an “army brat” she knew the value of structure and discipline; so the next day she went back and suspended 28 kids. At that time membership was $45 a year—unquestionably the most affordable childcare you could find—so parents of the suspended kids told them, “Whatever Ms. Molly wants, you are going to do it.” Eventually Molly devised a policy where children who didn’t comply with the rules were required to answer reflective questions about their behavior (or make a drawing if they were very little), all of which went into a file that she keeps today. When new students enter the program, Molly has been known to pull their parents’ files for a little trip down memory lane.

“I’ve come through a lot of things in my life, and I realize now that they were preparing me to deal with these babies’ issues,” said Molly, who feels this is her calling from God. “I can look at a child and say, ‘I know you’re dealing with alcoholism in your house. I know you’re dealing with child abuse.’ We give workshops for young girls about good touches and bad touches, and after one of them, I got a three-page letter from a 12-year-old girl that said, ‘Ms. Molly, that happens to me every weekend.’ Imagine the trust she had to have! That’s when I knew the impact we were making.”

The hardest part of Molly’s job has been the realization that she cannot save everybody. “I was at the point where I wanted to take kids home and adopt them,” she says. “But a close friend told me that if I make a difference in one child’s life, I’ve done the job I’m supposed to do.”

Well, there is no doubt Miss Molly is making a difference. Ask her about the Boys and Girls Club mission, programs and core areas, and you will get a burst of information about all the things they are doing to help kids reach their full potential. Molly feels as excited and energized about her job today as she did 20 years ago and hasn’t even thought about retiring. “It is an amazing position to be in where you can witness miracles,” she says. “That’s in my soul, it’s in my heart, and I have a conviction for this.”

Up Close:

Oklahoma City

Mother of two and grandmother of three

How she restores herself:
With a book at the beach, absorbing the healing power of the ocean

Other ways she shares love: Her cooking (especially crab cakes) and as a Mary Kay Consultant, which she does to lift women’s self-esteem and help them love themselves
Where she gets all that energy: By the grace of God