For nearly 50 years, Jeff Joray has been associated with an organization that provides after-school programming for young people.
From age 5 to 18, he was a member of the Boys Club in Seymour and also spent some time volunteering and refereeing as a teenager when the club was on South Broadway Street.
Then when he went to Ball State University in Muncie, he worked at the Boys Club there as part of a work-study program.
After spending five years working in sales, he returned to familiar territory and became assistant director of the Boys Club in Seymour. The club later changed to the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, and he became unit director.
Now, after 30 years, he is retiring.
Joray, 57, however, isn’t going to stop working. He was elected to serve as Jackson Township trustee and will start that role in January. He also wants to grow the number of cows on his farm south of Seymour, and he may have some opportunities to help at the club, too.
“A lot of people know when it’s time to move on to something else, and that’s where I was at. Things are changing throughout society, and you just know when it’s time to try something different,” Joray said.
“I still get to work with the public, which I enjoy,” he said of his role as trustee. “I served on the city council for 10 years, and I served on the school board for 10 years. I’ve always been a people person, and I think I’ve got something to add to make things better.”
From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, the public is invited to a retirement open house for Joray at Knights of Columbus Council 1252, 118 E. Second St., Seymour. There will be a cash bar and light refreshments.
Soon after his family moved to Seymour, Joray, the ninth of 10 kids, became a member of the Boys Club. It was within walking distance for him and his siblings, and it was close to where their mother worked at the hospital as a nurse and near where they went to school and church.
From basketball to flag football, the club offered a variety of sports.
“I used to love playing ping-pong. I learned how to play there and won a couple of state championships when I was growing up there,” Joray said. “They used to have a big state tournament, and there’d be 20, 25 clubs that would get involved with it. You had team scores, but you played as an individual. I think I had five straight (titles), and then I lost the next five. It evened out at some point. I still play a little bit.”
Besides sports, Joray remembers taking leather-making and cooking classes at the club.
He said his mother was very appreciative of the club because it offered a lot for the family, and the members and staff looked after each other.
“Home life was fine, but I just needed some outlet to go to,” he said. “It taught me competitiveness, friendship. You grew up with a lot of different people. We weren’t by any means poor, but you had a lot of different socioeconomic backgrounds there. I still run into some of those guys today that remember me and I remember them.”
Joray said he also learned about teamwork because most of the sports were team-oriented, and once he started working at the club, it taught him how to be responsible.
He graduated from Seymour High School in 1983 and then went to Ball State and earned a degree in marketing. He said he was glad to have an opportunity to work at the club in Muncie.
“That was just a perfect place to work at,” he said.
After graduating from college in 1987, he worked in sales and lived in Indianapolis.
In 1992, he and his wife, Debbie, decided to move back to Seymour to raise their family.
“She had a job, and I enjoyed sales, I did OK in it, but there was some kind of void there where I didn’t feel like I was as productive as I could be,” Joray said.
The assistant director job opened at the Boys Club, and he jumped at the opportunity to return to his roots.
There were only two staff members until the club changed to the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour and moved to its current location at 950 N. O’Brien St. in 1996. Girls could become members, so female staff members were hired.
As unit director, Joray scheduled part-time staff, ran sports programs and helped with maintenance and other duties at the club.
Sports offered included basketball, flag football, baseball and volleyball. Joray said he enjoyed taking kids to and from games and tournaments, including 2001 when the club’s 17-18 all-star boys basketball team won the state tournament in East Chicago.
“That was a highlight,” he said.
Making an impact on kids was a big deal for Joray.
“I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 30 years, I’ve got three wonderful kids and I’ve had the opportunity for 30 years to come to a great organization and basically hang out with kids,” he said. “Hopefully, throughout those days, I’ve meant something to one of the kids. I’ve made them smile, helped them out, just the feeling that I think I had somewhat of an impact on some of the kids.”
While he didn’t expect to spend 30 years working at the Seymour club, Joray said it has been good for him.
“I’ve worked with some great staff. The board members have always been good to the staff,” he said. “It was just a good opportunity. I had opportunities to go other places, but I just ended up staying right here. It has been a fun ride. It really has been.”
With more than 200 kids coming to the club per day, Joray said that has doubled in the last five years, so the organization is a valuable part of the community.
“We’re offering a lot more on the academic level, the STEM level, which I think is what the kids need,” he said. “Ryon (Wheeler, executive director) is doing a great job, and I think we’re moving down the right path.”
Joray looks for the club to continue to grow and make an impact on kids.
“I would just tell people to get involved with the clubs, whether it’s Girls Inc. or the Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer. We’re here.”
If you go
What: Retirement open house for Boys and Girls Club of Seymour Unit Director Jeff Joray
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Knights of Columbus Council 1252, 118 E. Second St., Seymour
Details: RSVP on the “Jeff Joray Retirement Open House” event page on Facebook; there will be a cash bar and light refreshments
Name: Jeff Joray
Education: Seymour High School (1983); Ball State University (bachelor’s degree in marketing, 1987)
Occupation: Retiring from the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour after 30 years; will start as Jackson Township trustee in January
Family: Wife, Debbie Joray; children, Jared Joray, Devon Joray and Jacob Joray