"We've had five recipients in 22 years here," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County. "For three of our board members to get the National Medallion in one year is unprecedented. I've never seen that in the movement, ever. ... [The award is] based on a lot of things.
"It's longtime service, it's constant advocacy, it's support. He/she has to go above and beyond what would be considered just board membership. They have some influence, not only for the local organization, but as a whole they reflect well on the national movement."
For Cochran, the recognition is a humbling yet rewarding honor.
"I was surprised. I didn't know I deserved it," Cochran said. "I don't think I do. I've just always worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs since they started it [in Cartersville]. I've just worked closely with them. I think it's a great thing.
"I've been involved since it started [because] I felt like somebody needed to help some kids [in our community]. ... I just enjoy watching the kids grow up," he said, noting one in particular has been Dustin Garnigan, who joined the nonprofit's Cartersville Unit around age 6 and now is its program director.
Opened in May 1990 at the Goodyear Clubhouse in the Atco community, the local offering became the first chartered club in the nation to reach out to boys and girls with the name of its organization. The temporary location drew 110 children in its first week and 400 by the end of the year.
Today, the organization features two locations -- 642 Henderson Drive in Cartersville and 127 King St. in Adairsville -- and serves more than 250 children a day with its after-school program. During the school year and the summer, the units offer youth ages 6 to 18 supplemental education and activities like arts and crafts, basketball and board games.
"Any child between 6 and 18 can be a Boys & Girls Club member," Gilley said. "We, of course, provide not only daily services but we're here when kids and their parents need us the most -- after school, all day during spring break and summer. Through the generosity of many, many collaborate partners, we feed, I think, in excess of 75,000 meals a year. We work closely with the Service League and the school systems and United Way to ensure these services are always enhanced.
"We also do an excellent job of measuring our outcomes. We have a measurement outcome tool kit. It's one thing to say you're doing all these great and wonderful things and kids have good environments, which are important, but it's to [evaluate] whether it's grade enhancement or participation in financial skills for teens or job readiness -- those types of programs and services ... that are done every day that people may not always know about. But believe me, the hundreds of kids we serve and their parents know about it."
For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, call 770-382-2552.