New Bedford Boys & Girls Club Looks to Expand Positive Community Impact
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford has been a staple on the SouthCoast for over 130 years.
It is the third oldest Boys & Girls Club in the country and one of the largest facilities of its kind.
The club has been hallowed ground for athletics, where many local legends in football, basketball, boxing and beyond have developed their competitive spirit and honed their abilities.
But Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors member Jason Lanagan said that the impact of the organization extends well beyond competitive sports.
"When people think of the Boys & Girls Club, they think of athletic excellence," Lanagan said. "But that is not all there is in 2023."
Lanagan said thanks to the leadership of longtime Executive Director Rob Mendes, who he described as an "inspirational community leader," the club has also become a regional outlet for wellness, job training, and job readiness for the more than 500 school-aged kids in the region that access the facilities every day.
Aside from the athletic training it's known for, kids that attend the Boys & Girls Club after school can catch up on their studies in the homework room, use the computer lab, build their own vessel in boatbuilding class, develop their cerebral prowess in brain training, learn to play an instrument in piano and drum class, and access many other opportunities for growth through available courses.
“The Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford is one of the nation’s oldest organizations of its kind, and it’s been a home-away-from-home for countless area school children," New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said. "It offers stability, mentorship, and opportunities to learn and grow in a safe and welcoming environment.”
However, Lanagan said that Mendes, along with the Board of Directors headed by current board president Craig Correia, have a broader vision for the club that will further expand its ability to make a positive impact on the community.
Outside of the walls of the club, they are working with local developers to build housing units on land owned by the club in the surrounding neighborhoods to help replenish New Bedford's depleted housing stock. They are also working to use available green space to begin an agriculture program.
Within the walls of the club, they are looking to make major upgrades to the facilities to build out space that is dedicated to workforce training and readiness.
They have worked with local architectural firms to conceptualize a space that would be equipped with state of the art technology and corporate level design and furniture to create an environment that will maximize the students' potential. The single obstacle they must overcome to achieve this goal is funding.
The club has been able to pay for the costly rudimentary maintenance the facility needs through donations from community members and organizations, funding the state and federal government, and awards from the Community Preservation Act.
Lanagan said more funding is needed from the community, however, as well as the city, state, and federal government to update and upgrade the club's underutilized space into a center for career development that prepares youth of the Greater New Bedford region for life after they finish school.
"We have to make the space as comfortable and enriching as possible for the more than 500 area kids that come here," Lanagan said. "Because ultimately, what we are doing is not just taking care of our youth, we are developing a ready and well-rounded workforce for the next generation. It starts here."