Joel Barrett and Beloit Boys Club were synonymous

Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News | October 27, 2020

 BELOIT—Joel Barrett may have left the Beloit Boys & Girls Club 22 years ago, but current Stateline Boys & Girls Club CEO Mark Rand says his imprint remains strong because of the thousands of people he impacted during his 35 years in the city.

“I don’t think you could talk to anyone in Beloit who had dealings with Joel who wouldn’t have nice things to say about him,” Rand said. “He was a great person and his stamp is all over the club, for sure.”

Barrett, who was the Beloit club’s executive director from 1964-99, passed away last month in Kentucky at 82.

Rand said Barrett will be inducted into the Wisconsin Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame next year.

“The honor is long overdue,” said Rand, whose first contact with Barrett came as a youngster attending the club after his parents moved to Beloit in 1979.

Rand is currently helping to oversee a $5.5 million capital campaign drive to fund a new Boys & Girls Club facility in Beloit and upgrade the South Beloit site.

“When we’re out talking to donors we mention that the last capital campaign was over 20 years ago when Joel oversaw it,” Rand said. “He wanted to retire, but the board asked him to stay on to see the campaign through to its completion.”

Barrett did see that $1.9 million capital campaign succeed, allowing for expansion and renovation to the Beloit and South Beloit clubs which were transitioning to becoming Boys & Girls Clubs. He then retired in 1999.

Barrett grew up in Winchester, Indiana, and attended Murray State in Kentucky. His first job was as physical director of the Binghamton (New York) Boys Club. After two years there, he became program director and later executive director of the Lebanon Boys Club in Indiana.

Barrett was 26 years old when he took over the E.J. Dalton Beloit Club in 1964. That was just four years after the club had opened at 1851 Moore St. The Boys Club saw rapid growth in the Stateline Area and the South Beloit Boys Club on Door Road was added in 1969.

Barrett was an active member of the Boys Club Professional Association and served as national president of the group. He was a recipient of the Midwest Region’s Heart and Soul Award in 1981, the Boys Clubs of America Bronze Keystone with Service Bar and the Boys Club’s Professional Association Distinguished Service Award.

Barrett also was active in community, serving on the Beloit Police and Fire Commission and Beloit Noon Kiwanis Club.

Barrett had opportunities to move on during his long stay in Beloit, but he and his wife, Ann, were content here.

“This is the size we like, growing up in a smaller community,” Barrett told the Daily News in 1998. “There have been opportunities to move to larger city Boys Clubs. I guess I just wasn’t interested in big-city life. The Greater Beloit community has been very supportive of our situation. There are a lot of people who understand our mission and what we’re trying to do for the kids.”

Beloit native Tim Wofford, the current Chief Operating Officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Birmingham, Alabama, credits Barrett with giving him an ultimatum that led to his career choice.

An outstanding athlete at Beloit Memorial High School and Western Illinois, Wofford was still chasing a professional football career when Barrett hired him as the Unit Director in Beloit. He had nearly made the roster of the then-St. Louis Cardinals when he broke his foot.

“I felt at the time that I could make it in the NFL if I could just stay healthy,” Wofford said. “When my agent called, I was still going to tryouts with Joel’s permission. But he finally said, and not in a mean way, ‘I’m not into killing anyone’s dreams, but you are going to have to make a decision—football or the Boys Club. It isn’t fair to the kids or your staff there.’ It was a hard decision, but Joel was right. I turned my focus and that’s really how my story began.”

Wofford has been involved with Boys & Girls Clubs for 32 years.

“I’ve never regretted that decision,” he said. “When I began my career, Joel gave me my first opportunity and without his coaching points along the way, I would not be where I am today. I love what I do.”

Barrett, who lived in Kuttawa, Kentucky, passed away Sept. 15. Survivors included Ann, his wife of 61 years, one daughter, Suzanne (Robert) Pollard of Pinehurst, North Carolina, one son, Jordan Barrett of Kuttawa and two grandchildren, Claire Sullivan and Nathan Pollard.