Marlena Smalls, a Gullah entertainer who played Bubba's mother in the movie "Forrest Gump," is sharing her vocal talents May 19 at a benefit concert for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Beaufort Area.
Facing deficits and cuts to its summer program, the Beaufort club is hoping to raise $200,000 by Sept. 30. The concert is among other fundraisers the club is planning, such as car washes, a golf tournament and a 5K walk and run.
Smalls, who worked as the city of Beaufort's arts coordinator in the 1980s and founded The Hallelujah Singers, will begin a new program at the club as well. Smalls, a mother of six, plans to lend her skills to the club's Teen Center by starting the Kids North of the Broad Artistic Program with Maura Connelly.
KNOB hopes to recruit 36 students, ages 13-18, to begin artistic instruction in music, writing, visual arts, painting, photography, dance and theater. A theatrical production will culminate the end of the seven-month session.
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Question. How did The Marlena Smalls Benefit Concert come about?
Answer. I know they are short this year, and they have to raise funds to maintain some of the programs that the Boys & Girls Club offers for the community. There is a shortfall like every corporation in America, and in order for us to continue to offer the wonderful programs at the Boys & Girls Club, as a community we need to participate.
Q. What has the Boys & Girls Club meant to you and your family over the years?
A. By the time the Beaufort club was established, my children were in college, so they never got to attend the Boys & Girls Club. But some of my former students' children attend the club, so I feel like I am sitting in as a grandparent and feel that I have been placed in the position of the grandmother.
Q. What do you hope is accomplished through the fundraiser?
A. I hope to bring an awareness of the need for financially supporting the Boys & Girls Club because there is a definite need for the club in the community to enhance the lives of our children. This past spring I had the opportunity of listening to some of the club members as they got ready to compete on the state level for Youth of the Year.
Q. Why is this such a priority for you?
A. I have done an awful lot of traveling in my career. ... It is time for me to enhance my community at home, and I see a need for my presence at the Boys & Girls Club. In the world of art, I am going to add an art program, KNOB.
Q. What should people expect as far as the type of music at the concert?
A. I am going to do an array of music from blues and jazz.