Updated 8:20 p.m. Monday
DANVILLE — Boys & Girls Club of Danville officials may have conducted a broad search for their next leader, but they found him close to home.
Rob Gifford, a lifelong Danville resident, was hired as the organization's executive director on Nov. 30. He started the job on Monday.
Gifford succeeds Rickey Williams Jr., who is stepping down after seven years in the position.
The two will work alongside each other until the end of December to ensure a smooth transition in leadership.
Gifford was selected from among 25 applicants and four finalists, according to board President Dr. Chris Robinson.
"We're really excited to have Rob," Robinson said, adding the search committee of three board members and two past board members was impressed by many things including Gifford's knowledge of the organization, which he gained through research and visiting the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign and with its director, Sam Banks. "He is very enthusiastic and excited about this opportunity, and he's going to do an excellent job."
Located at the Mervis Unit at 850 N. Griffin St., the Boys & Girls Club of Danville has been providing area youth with a safe place to learn and grow since 1989. It offers a wide range of educational and career, character and leadership, health and life skills, arts and recreational programs and activities to help youth become productive, caring, responsible citizens.
The club currently has 142 members, elementary through high school age, and an annual operating budget of $400,000. It is supported primarily through corporate and individual donations and grants, including a United Way allocation, as well as through membership and facility rental fees.
Gifford, 47, graduated from Schlarman High School in 1983. He attended Danville Area Community College and Illinois State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business management in 1988.
Gifford and his wife, Karla, have a son Ryan, 26, and a daughter, Reagan, 13. He has been involved in the community as a youth sports coach for more than 20 years.
Prior to starting his new duties, Gifford worked as part of the business development and sales team at Trigard, a division of Greenwood Inc. in Danville.
"I liked that I was helping people," he said of his previous position. But "I was looking for something that would be the right fit. I saw this as a great opportunity to mentor young people and work with them to achieve their goals and make a difference in their lives. I also saw it as a way I could give back to my community."
Gifford said he believes Williams has done a good job at the club, and he wants to build on that. He said he's also looking forward to getting to know the members and building partnerships with individuals, businesses and other organizations in the Danville area.
Robinson said a party to say farewell to Williams and welcome Gifford will be held at the Mervis Unit, 850 N. Griffin St., at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The community is welcome to attend. (The event originally was scheduled for Thursday but has been moved.)