The mission of the Arlington Boys & Girls Club from its modest beginning in 1937 has continued on throughout the past six decades and has remained unchanged: To inspire and enable all young people, especially those from challenging circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. The needs of the youth in the new millennium places ever increasing challenges and demands on our limited resources.
The Club provides a "kid-friendly" environment where young people are welcomed as individuals and feel they belong. For many, including children with disabilities or from broken and disadvantaged homes, the Club serves as a drop in center and as a "home away from home" which plays a vital role in encouraging and helping them to reach their full potential.
As a nonprofit institution, the Club is committed to affordable opportunities for enriching constructive activities that many children would not otherwise have. The Club offers a multitude of programs and services reaching over 3,500 young people from toddlers to teenagers. The skills learned and values encouraged help youth build both self-respect and respect for others.
Supporting children in the new millennium also means supporting parents in helping to provide for their children's care during work hours. The Club operates a licensed preschool and two licensed after-school programs, one serving children from the public housing area of the community. The Club also conducts a number of summer programs with childcare components.
The Arlington Boys & Girls Club is truly a community organization. The Club works in many ways to involve the children in community activities and to foster awareness of children's needs. The broader mission of the Club is to help a community that cares about children and takes seriously its obligation to them.
The past success and considerable record of achievement of the Club has been made possible by a caring community, hard work, and personal compassion and commitment from dedicated volunteers, friends and professional staff. Now as we enter into the uncharted and uncertain future of the new millennium, we must rededicate ourselves to the task at hand so that the Club can continue to be a beacon of light and hope for the youth of our community.
Judge Glenda Hatchett Johnson of Atlanta Georgia, in a recent speech,summed up her perspective for Boys & Girls Club professionals, volunteers, and others "Take heart, know the work you do will live long after all of us are gone. Touch the future by taking hold of a child's hand." All children have the right to a bright future. Help us light the way to that future.
The story of the Arlington Boys & Girls Club is a story of a town of middle-income caring citizens with big hearts. Without benefactors of great wealth and without easy access to grants, Arlington has managed to provide a facility to promote the health, happiness and well-being of all its people.
The Arlington Boys & Girls Club did not come about overnight. It has been a long evolutionary project, dating back officially to 1937, and was built on an idea and hope of Archie Bullock, police chief in 1932. He wrote a letter to the Boys Club of America office in New York in 1932 and received a reply in 1935. He then enlisted the help of the Rotary Club to set up the beginnings. After two more years of work in 1937 a charter was granted by the state to recognize the "forming of a corporation by Archibald Bullock, Arthur Mansfield, Anna Callahan, William Adams, Russell Wise, Bertha Murphy and Annabelle Wood."
The first clubhouse for the Boys Club was the "flatiron" building on Swan Place, formerly and subsequently a garage. Groups of boys came there to shoot baskets and play pool. There was a director, Deane Moores, hired by the corporation, and expenses were met by diligent volunteer efforts. The Rotary Club has always been interested in the Club and has contributed to some of its operating expenses.
In 1943, the Boys Club Corporation acquired the Sportsmen's Club building on Spy Pond. The Sportsmen's Club had an offer to sell their valuable property at a considerable profit, but they decided it was in the best interest of the community and in line with their own goals to pass on their holdings to the Corporation of the Boys Club, with the proviso that a room would be made available to their card playing members! The board of directors of the Boys Club enthusiastically accepted this generous offer.
In 1953 George P. Faulkner (universally known as "Brud") a lifelong resident of Arlington, an athelete of considerable recognition, and a recent graduate of Boston University, came to the Boys Club as physical education director. He stayed with this job for a year, then accepted two positions in West Hartford, Connecticut, combining teaching with Boys Club work. The following year he was lured back and became the Club's executive director, dedicating his life, and most of his waking hours, to the Club's aim of meeting the needs of Arlington youth.
Repairs were made to the building. Room arrangements were changed. New activities were introduced, and after a year, membership increased to 1285 members with a going organization. Brud gives much credit to the board of directors and other volunteers in this successful effort. He mentions especially Arthur D. Saul, Jr., a well-known and lovingly remembered Arlington citizen and selectman, whose broad experience in management and many other abilities helped Brud over his first experience as an executive.
Since that time in the history of the Arlington Boys Club, there has been continued growth with never a static period. The town's citizens have increased active involvement in the Club's programs.
Based on services rendered, it has been possible for the Club to receive grants from foundations and from the United Way. Endowment funds have been set up which help carry the costs of both operations and improvements.
With a grant from the Charles Hayden Foundation for $300,000, contingent on the town raising another $200,000 from voluntary contributions, a half-million dollar clubhouse was built to replace the old Sportsmen's Club building. The old building was inadequate for the large number of young people using the facility and was requiring an inordinate amount of money for repairs and upkeep. Francis E. Kenney was president of the corporation at that time, and Arthur D. Saul, Jr. was chairman of the campaign to raise the money.
After fifteen months of construction, the new facility opened at its current location at 60 Pond Lane in July,1962.
The biggest change in the Club's history came about in 1973. The board of directors began considering ways to include girls in more of the Club's programs. They had meetings considering the change in facilities and personnel required for this major departure. It involved grants that had been made by foundations and even more importantly by the United Way. After much work, long hours, many meetings, and major efforts, the change was made officially in March, 1980. The name of the Club was changed to the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. Modifications to the facility were made at the cost of $124,000 with money raised by contributions from foundations and local services clubs such as the Kiwanis Club.
After the Club was re-designed, adult participation slowly increased to reach five hundred adult members. They enjoy lap swimming, the fitness area, basketball, exercise, and socialization.
The Boys & Girls Club, due to the efforts of Jane Foley, George Fusco, Thelma Sonnichsen, and George Faulkner began the operation of the ABC Pre-School in 1981. The ABC Pre-School serves children between the ages two years nine months through five years eleven months. The program is licensed by the Office for Children and is designed to enrich the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of pre-school aged children through play. All play is open-ended in order to allow the children to grow at their own pace.
In the mid eighties tot programs for children six months to six years were introduced. These included gym and swim activities involving both parent and child. Tot membership grew as programs were added. This helped create many family activities and special events. The Boys & Girls Club has over one thousand members ages six months to five years eleven months.
George P. Faulkner retired in 1990 after thirty years of dedicated service to the Arlington Boys & Girls Club.
A supervised after school program was introduced in 1991. The Club acquired a licence from the Office of Children to conduct the program which met with immediate success. In 1994 the Boys & Girls Club took control of the extended kindergarten and after school program at the Thompson School. Both programs meet the ever increasing need for quality child care in a safe, clean environment.
The Boys & Girls Club added many new activities serving tots, youth, and adults in the mid 1990's. Programs operate in six week cycles in the Fall, Winter, and Spring followed by a ten to twelve week summer program. Instruction classes, direct and indirect supervised activities are available throughout the year.
This history is attributed to the inspiration and tireless effort of Thelma Sonnichsen.