Coles comes home

Published 10:44 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

Lamarr Coles III has been involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs more than half of his life. Now, he’s taking on the biggest challenge yet — being the unit director of the club where he grew up.

Coles became the new director at the Suffolk Unit in mid-August. He has been a member of the Suffolk Unit since he was in sixth grade.

“This was a safe haven,” Coles said of the club. “It’s like a family setting. You can be who you are.”

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Coles attended middle school at John F. Kennedy Middle School, where the club is based. He began working part-time in the Suffolk Unit in 10th grade and continued to do so past his graduation from Lakeland High School in 2010. He won the Youth of the Year award in his senior year.

He kept working at the club throughout his education at Old Dominion University, where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in education, concentrating on sports management.

When he graduated, he had already been offered a job as the unit director at a club in Portsmouth. He worked there for two years until the opportunity arose to return to the club of his youth.

“I definitely love the club I was at before, but I’m excited to be able to come back home,” Coles said. “It’s definitely a humbling experience.”

The Boys and Girls Club provides a safe place for children to go after school until 8 p.m., and during the summer as well. Children receive homework help, activities and meals and benefit from special programs, such as those focused on self-esteem or financial literacy.

An average of about 110 kids attend daily, Coles said.

He has continued to pursue his Master of Business Administration degree at Liberty University, but Coles has big plans for the club.

It recently received a grant from the Pruden Foundation for club members to take classes at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. A tutoring grant also was received recently.

“There’s a lot of things that are already going on,” Coles said, adding he’s not planning any big changes. “This is a community effort. We want to make sure the community knows we’re here.”

Part of the community effort takes place this Saturday, Oct. 1, when the club holds its annual oyster roast and barbecue fundraiser at Constant’s Wharf, 110 E. Constance Road.

Tickets are $30 per person and are available at the door. The event lasts from 5 to 8 p.m., but folks should arrive early, as the oysters go quickly. Island Boy will entertain, with club members giving a special presentation during the band’s intermission.

Coles gave a special recognition to the staff at the Suffolk Unit and especially remembered Reggie Carter, who was the unit director in Suffolk throughout Coles’ childhood and now is still his supervisor, as Carter has a regional position now.

“I am what I am in this club because of Reggie Carter,” Coles said.

He added he is happy to come home.

“My life could have been completely different, and they could have chosen anybody else, but I’m grateful they chose me,” he said.

Find more information about the Boys and Girls Clubs at