AIKEN - Although Francine Cayruth is flashing a cheerful smile these days, the Aiken County Boys and Girls Club executive director has a heavy heart.
Ms. Cayruth is leaving the club for a job with the United Way of Aiken County as the director of community development.
But she says she'll miss the pint-sized clients she's been dealing with since December 1995.
"It'll give me the opportunity to reach more people," Ms. Cayruth said of her new job.
"But I'll hate leaving my kids. I got attached to them."
She is replacing Michael Williamson, the agency's former director of marketing and resource development.
She'll also provide community volunteers with statistics and budgets to help them determine how much funding each of the 29 United Way agencies will receive and be responsible for special events.
She starts her new job April 1. March 28 will be her last day at club.
Capt. Kenneth Hall, commanding officer for the Aiken Salvation Army, said Thursday he'll also hate to see Ms. Cayruth go.
Calling her "a hard act to follow," he said the club has grown tremendously the past year under her supervision.
"When she came on board we were averaging 40 to 50 children three days a week and currently we're up to 100 children a day five days a week," Capt. Hall said.
Programs sponsored by the agency - including after school tutorials and Kid's Cafe, which provides children with hot meals daily - have also increased with enrollment.
Carol McCormack, United Way president, is one of the few people not shedding tears about Ms. Cayruth leaving the Boys and Girls Club.
Ms. McCormack said she is happy to have Ms. Cayruth with her agency, adding that she was chosen out of 85 applicants.
"She's a dedicated professional, a definite asset to our team and the community," Ms. McCormack said. "We look forward to her starting."