Constructing a new chapter for Boys and Girls Club


Expansion begun on Lindell Ave. building
STORY BY CAROLINE KERAS

The ‘lazy, hazy days of summer’ do not apply to the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Massachusetts, as they are gearing up for a season filled with activities and plenty of action.

A highlight of this exciting time, however, is the start of construction that will ultimately yield an expanded teen center, a life skills center, a science center, and a garden out in the back of the Club’s current location on Lindell Avenue.

Many of the students who utilize the services of the Club are already excited for the completion of the project, which is slated to be for sometime in 2013.

“It’s going to be a bigger area, bet- ter stuff to do,” said 12-year-old Michael Nunez.

“We’re going to have a lot more room to run around,” said Katrina Vaughn, also age 12.

Giving kids “stuff to do,” a larger space to play and learn, and encouraging them, through the activities offered, to stay in school is the main goal of the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Massachusetts, according to Executive Director Donata Martin.

“One thing we are about is helping prevent drop outs,” she said.

Participants can choose from such offerings as a “power hour” homework assistance group, a science club for girls, an art club, healthy cooking classes, or to just shoot baskets or read a book with friends.

 

Often times, with these programs, children are able to learn through events that coincide with their interests, such as when a few kids who wrestle attended a Sports Science Fair at Gillette Stadium.

“They learned all about force an impact, and didn’t even know they were involved in that every day,” said Martin.

Because of the organization, many of the students have also been able to box seats at Patriots games and tickets to Red Sox games. Some even obtain summer jobs working with the younger kids at the Club.

All of the outside outings and fun at the Club do not come without a cost, however. With a current budget of a little over $600,000 per year, staff and fundraising volunteers are highly aware of how much they will have to raise in order to sustain the additional space and goings on, as well as the activities already inn place.

According to Campaign for Kids Chairwoman Kim Ansin, they are looking to raise $10 million through the effort. The funds would serve to pay for the expansion of the building, the programs run at the Club in the near future, and to establish an account that can sustain the increased utility and other bills that will come with operating a larger building.

Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella is happy that they are adding to the building that he thinks is the perfect spot for the Club to run from. Finding that prime location did not come easy, however.

“We had a hard time finding a location that we could call a Boys and Girls Club,” he said.

After a lot of searching in 2001, they were able to find the Veterans’ Club on West Street. Mazzarella said that, within a few hours of approaching the Veterans’ about using the space, they were cleared out and the Boys & Girls Club was able to move in.

They quickly outgrew that space, however, and moved to the current location on Lindell Avenue in August of 2008.

For those who work with the Club, though, the excitement around the latest project is not merely about the facelift for the building, which will include concrete masonry base and composite metal panel siding on the addition completed by Shepherd’s in Townsend. It is centered in the new opportunities the expansion will yield for the children who take part in the activities there.

“When the kids hit the streets and see what’s out there that is not correct, they’ll be able to get through because of self esteem,” said M. Marcus Moran Jr., chairman of the Club.

Martin hopes that the expansion will go beyond even the individual learning and growth the kids in the Boys & Girls Club programs can achieve.

“I want to be a real community centered organization where people feel comfortable and want to come,” she said.