SIOUX CITY | Sanford Community Center staff are preparing potatoes, rice and vegetables for about 200 needy people to take home Monday to have for Thanksgiving meals.
Those side dishes will be paired with turkeys that Sioux City public school kids have gathered, as the Bountiful Baskets program continues for roughly a 15th year. The program is one of the many endeavors that continue at the Sanford Center, in a year that Fitz Grant began leading the organization after decades under the tutelage of George Boykin.
Grant has worked at the Sanford Center, 1700 Geneva St., since 1993 in a few capacities. He said it has been pleasing to assume the executive director position at the center, where the programs remain roughly the same but building improvements and new marketing branding are underway.
"It is an honor to be able to continue the legacy of the Sanford Center in this community," Grant said, minutes after a slew of preschool-aged children from a nearby day care facility came by to give thanks for Halloween treats.
But it isn't just all Halloween and Thanksgiving endeavors at the Sanford Community Center, which was founded in 1933. The center is known for programs that seek to halt the growth of gangs in the city, and runs after-school and summer programs. Grant said he hopes to continue building relationships between the center and area youth, so they stay focused on developing into productive adults.
"We are still relevant...We are moving forward," Grant said.
Laurie Arvin is the Sanford office manager. Arvin said she likes that Grant is continuing programs while positioning the agency for the future.
"He is absolutely the right guy. He is very committed to the Sanford Center," Arvin said.
Boykin on July 1 retired from a career of leading the Sanford social agency, two years after he also finished a lengthy tenure on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors.
Grant, a 1990 graduate of Briar Cliff University, hails from Beaufort, South Carolina. He came to Sioux City to play basketball for the Chargers and stayed in town after earning a sociology degree. He is married and expecting a fourth child next year.
Grant's enthusiasm and effusive personality is evident.
"I am compassionate, high energy, someone who will sacrifice my life for my brother, my neighbor. I am someone who is all-in...You have to have compassion, you've got to have high energy to do this," he said.
Grant began as a gang outreach specialist and was promoted to program director in the late 1990s. Now, as executive director, he leads an agency with 12 employees, which he acknowledged is much wider responsibility.
Sanford has added a learning center with new computers and a tutor in the basement for elementary-age students to use for after-school and summer programs.
Grant now is the face of the agency, which means he is handling fundraising, in the time after Woodbury County governmental funding to Sanford was halted to reduce expenses and cut taxes. In a major shift, the county supervisors in early 2015 decided many nonprofit organizations would no longer receive money from the county.
The supervisors who voted for the cuts said Sanford should be able to continue gang prevention services through a combination of grants and fundraising. Lots of such fundraising has taken place.
"We are getting what we need to continue. But we still need to get out and raise more funds," Grant said.