“Relationships are everything,” says Vic Durrah with an engaging smile. And then he adds, “I’ve never met a stranger!”
For him, he explains, meeting and greeting people, quickly making friends of new acquaintances and finding ways to help others are his passion. “Passion” is actually one of his favorite words, and he’s found the perfect platform for his passion in his new job, he says.
That job started Monday, Feb. 3, when Victor Durrah, Jr., a small-town native of Spartanburg County in South Carolina, assumed the leadership of Brevard’s growing Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County. As the new executive director he now heads an operation with a $1.2 million budget and a staff of nearly 40 who tend and teach 240 youngsters a day after school.
“I’m not saying I’m not nervous,” he says with an unassuming smile, “but I’m confident.” Then, he confidently added, “I’m going to grow in this job.”
Don Gentle, president of the club’s Board of Directors, has no doubt Durrah has the personality and ability to do that. “He’s super charismatic,” says Gentle. “One of Victor’s best talents is his ability to light up a room. He’s passionate, smart, and you just feel great to be around him.”
Durrah, 36, belonged to a Boys & Girls Club growing up in Cowpens near Spartanburg and says he has a warm spot in his heart for the organization and its local clubhouses in towns like Brevard. “This is perfect for me,” he says. “I’m a small town guy!”
The middle son of three boys in a single-parent household, Vic, as he immediately introduces himself, was the first in his family to go to college. He went to Spartanburg Methodist College (SMC), a private liberal arts school very much like Brevard College. He spent two years at SMC before transferring and graduating from the upstate campus of the University of South Carolina. He had intended to pursue teaching or coaching (at 5-feet-11, he played point guard for basketball teams in high school and at SMC) but when USC offered a degree in non-profit administration and management, he pursued that.
“I just felt that working in that field would give me more of a chance for leadership and to help people one-on-one,” he said. He particularly had a desire to help the neediest of young people, which happens to be one of the goals of the Transylvania’s Boys & Girls Club.
Early career moves
After college he worked for eight years in a regional office of the Boy Scouts of America in Spartanburg as a district executive. It was there that he cut his teeth on non-profit work centering on children.
“I was able to get a lot of training,” he recalls. “I really learned to understand the importance of relationships.”
Most recently, he took another direction, entering the academic area as director of professional development and student success at Spartanburg Methodist. It was a different kind of experience working to help others. But it was mostly office work and Durrah itched to get back in closer contact with those he wanted to help.
“I learned my passion was being out in the field,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to get back to the non-profit field… that is my passion!”
And so when he learned of the executive director opening at the local Boys & Girls Club, to replace Candice Walsh, who moved from the area last summer, he applied. There were nearly 100 applicants, said Board President Gentle. It took the search committee he headed almost six months to sift through resumes and interview finalists before happily offering the post to Durrah.
“It was some job,” said Gentle, “but Vic was worth the effort.”
He thanked the search committee members: directors Meredith Baldridge, Jim Cruickshank, Cary Hitchcock, Parker Platt, Michael Shelley and Laurie Strayhorn. He also extended a pat on the back to staff leaders who filled-in for an executive director for six months. “A huge thank you goes to Sarah Rae St. Marie, Kathleen de la Torre and Jamie Atkinson for all they did extra,” Gentle said.
Gentle thinks Durrah now tops off a strong staff. “The team we have in place at the club now is incredible! Vic was the missing piece that completes the puzzle,” he said.
Good things coming
Gentle predicts great opportunities for the club and the community in coming years. “I see the club with plans for more space to be able to serve more kids. I see a continued strong program that is way beyond day care. I see more people willing to invest in Transylvania County’s future,” he said.
“It takes a village, so we will need the help of everyone in this community to help us grow our club. And I believe Victor and his team have the passion and talent to get us there.”
Durrah anticipates good things, too, but says it’s too early for him to name specific goals. “I’m still in evaluation mode… understanding the club, understanding the community,” he said.
One goal he has set, though, is a wedding. He and his fiancé, Jeanice Casey, a Charlotte book author and yoga instructor, are planning to marry Sept. 29. “Jeanice is quite a woman,” he says proudly, “an outdoor person who’s really looking forward to living in this area.”
Durrah’s particular interest in helping those who most need help actually began back at USC, when he got the idea of starting an organization to target those too old for youth organizations like the Boy Scouts or Boys & Girls Clubs but still in need of guidance. At first it was a class project, but it soon evolved into the non-profit and aptly named Brothers Restoring Urban Hope, or BRUH for short.
BRUH is now 15 years old and still operating in Spartanburg County. Its programs designed for young adults 17 to 24 include mentoring, leadership training and spiritual guidance. Durrah says BRUH focuses on people who “age out” of traditional youth services but haven’t yet found a direction in life. “We kind of fill that gap,” he said. He remains the volunteer organization’s executive director. BRUH has served some 4,700 young adults since its inception.
Durrah says his new full time job of running a large and growing organization takes him to a new level. And he says it was almost destiny that brought him there.
A member of the Born Anew Church in Spartanburg, Durrah wears a button with the word “Faith” positioned over the word “Fear” printed on it. “I’m a strong believer that God has a plan for me,” he declares, “and he sent me to Brevard!”
Visit the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County website for additional information.