Kathy Custis – Citizen of the Year

Kathy Custis as she won Citizen of the Year at the Annual dinner of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce


The United Way of Virginia’s Eastern Shore was proud to nominate for Kathy Custis for Outstanding Citizen of the Year.  And very excited when she won!

Kathy Custis is the Unit Director of the Eastern Shore Unit of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia.  She has been the Unit Director since the start of the school year in 2004.  September 2014 will mark her 10-year anniversary with Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia.  She was born and raised on the Eastern Shore and graduated from Central High School in Painter.   The Eastern Shore Unit operates out of Occohannock Elementary School in the town of Exmore.  Kathy’s Boys & Girls Club serves roughly 200 members every year, ages 6 to 18.  Her Club is open during the school year, Monday through Friday, from the time school lets out until 8 p.m.  During the summer, her Club is open each week day from 6:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.   Kathy is responsible for running a small business that provides a dynamic youth development program for young people of all ages. She supervises a staff of 7 adults, manages an annual budget of $160,000, and plans the daily schedule of activities that will be fun for kids, but at the same time, will help them achieve the 3 outcomes we want for all our boys and girls:

•         Academic Success •         Good Character and Citizenship •         Healthy Lifestyles

As part of her Club program, Kathy also manages a meal delivery system for Club members known as Kids Café.  The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginian and the Eastern Shore prepares the weekly menus and provides the food free of charge.  Kathy’s staff members prepare and serve the meals.  During the school year, it’s dinner every night; during the summer, it’s breakfast and lunch.  In 2013, Kathy’s Club served 9,154 meals to their boys and girls.   In addition to running her own Club, Kathy is Co-Chair of the annual Youth of the Year Competition.  This is just one of the Boys & Girls Club programs, designed to promote character, service, and leadership in her teen Club members, ages 14 to 18.  Six of the 11 Clubs serve teens, and each one selects a Youth of the Year to represent his/her Club.  Those nominees then compete against each other for the title of Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia.  The nominees have to write two essays, make a speech, and answer questions in front of a panel of judges.  The judges then score the nominees and the winner is announced at the Youth of the Year dinner in March.  With the help of Kathy’s tutoring and guidance, Eastern Shore Unit teens from the Eastern Shore Club have won the competition four out of the last eight years:  Chatema Hilliard (2007, now a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University), Shantel Nock (2008, now a graduate of Old Dominion University), Myeisha Jones (2011, currently attending VCU), and Lucero Diaz (2013, currently attending Eastern Shore Community College).  Our Youth of the Year then advances to the Virginia Youth of the Year Competition, and Kathy accompanies the winner to the competition.   In addition, because Boys & Girls Clubs is a non-profit corporation, Kathy works closely with the volunteer Board of Directors to raise the funds needed to keep the Club open.  Kathy attends the monthly board meetings.  She also frequently makes appearances at Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Ruritan Club, and Chamber of Commerce meetings to make sure Eastern Shore residents know what her kids are achieving through the Boys & Girls Club program.   Anyone who has seen Kathy speak about the boys and girls at her Club knows that she has a passion for serving youth.  Whether her kids are 6 years old or 18, she strives to give them a great Club experience and encourages each of them to do well in school, be responsible, and become great citizens.

Here are some observations by the four citizens nominating Kathy Custis for Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

Bill Payne, Chairman of Boys and Girls Club, Eastern Shore Unit Board of Directors   “I first realized that Kathy Custis was a tireless supporter of our community’s youth when I invited the Eastern Shore Boys and Girls Club to participate in our annual Northampton Schools Day.  She has demonstrated her enthusiastic commitment to the task ever since.  When she asked me to work with the Boys and Girls Club, it gave me a vehicle to more directly support our youth and I will forever be beholden to her for providing that opportunity.  Kathy is indeed an Eastern Shore asset and deserves our sincere appreciation.”

John Fiege, President of United Way of Virginia’s Eastern Shore   “Kathy has always been available over the years to support United Way of Virginia’s Eastern Shore whenever we have asked.  I believe her sincere, energetic and emotional group presentations are vital to our local United Way’s ability to raise funds and have made a dramatic difference in annual donations, which subsequently impact everyone on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  Most recently, she brought her “Youth of the Year”, Lucero Diaz, to speak at our United Way “Thank You Breakfast”.  Lucero was extremely well received.  The young woman spoke eloquently about the vital difference Mrs. Custis makes in children’s lives, including her own!  Kathy talks about her Boys & Girls Club members as if they were her own sons and daughters, and you can see the impact she has on “her babies” very clearly if you speak to any one of them.”

Dawn Byrd, Executive Director of United Way of Virginia’s Eastern Shore   “I first met Kathy Custis a few years ago when I organized a Halloween event with the Boys and Girls Club and ESO.  I was so impressed that, even though I had not worked with her again until recently, I never forgot her passion for her “babies”.  She creates a welcoming and safe environment for children of many ages.  That is very important so they can develop into responsible citizens.  Ms. Custis encourages the young people in her care to believe anything is possible if you wanted it bad enough and you are willing to work for it.   Dr.  Belle Fears told me many years ago, if you help children by providing good health care and give them solid building blocks on with to grow, they will become an asset to the community. Kathy Custis, as the embodiment of the Boys and Girls Club, gives her children hope that they would not otherwise have.”

Bill Sterling, Past Chairman of Boys and Girls Club, Eastern Shore Unit Board of Directors   “I have worked closely with Kathy Custis since joining the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club, Eastern Shore Unit, in 2008 and particularly in the past two years when I served as chairman. I am continually amazed by Kathy’s passion for the youth served by the Boys and Girls Club. She inspires them to accomplish things they never imagined possible and is as proud of them as she is her own children. She truly makes a difference in the lives of these youth who attend the Club. Many of these youth would be going to empty homes after school, or worse yet, on their own in the neighborhoods where there are few positive role models. At the Boys and Girls Club, they get a hot meal, academic tutoring and daily love and support from Kathy Custis and her staff. She is certainly very worthy of being selected Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce.”

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