From the Wakeman Boys & Girls Smilow-Burroughs Club:
Wakeman Boys & Girls Club Celebrates Grand Opening of 23,000 Square Foot Bridgeport Clubhouse
More than 1,000 children in grades 3 – 12 to benefit
Officials from the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club joined residents from Bridgeport’s West End and Black Rock neighborhoods to celebrate the long awaited grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new seven million dollar Wakeman Boys & Girls Club Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.
Located on land adjacent to the Burroughs Community Center, 2414 Fairfield Avenue, this unique urban-suburban partnership has created a new Clubhouse that will bring nationally acclaimed Boys & Girls Club of America programs to more than 1,000 Bridgeport children in grades three through 12. Attending the celebration were Joel Smilow, philanthropist, Glen Staron, regional vice president, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, and hundreds of community well-wishers.
“With this grand opening and ribbon cutting, our work is just beginning,” explained David W. Blagys, executive director, Wakeman Boys & Girls Club. “Our challenge now becomes raising the funds necessary to continue providing quality programs for the many generations to come.”
The Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse is a 23,000 square foot building featuring a nearly 8,000 square foot gymnasium with seating for 250, a teen center, game room, arts and science center, technology center, community room, two learning centers, a café and kitchen, and a fitness studio for dance, yoga, and other exercise programs. Boys & Girls Clubs of America programming focuses on five areas including education and career development, character and leadership development, the arts, health and life skills, and sports, fitness and recreation.
Natalia Kembaren, a 12-year-old Bridgeport resident, shared her excitement about the new Clubhouse. “Camp just started on Monday and I’ve already played in the game room, been active in the gym and outside, let out my creative side in the theater, and just hung out with my friends. I am so thankful to everyone who helped make this Clubhouse a reality for me and the other members. Yesterday in art class, we learned that “BE GREAT” is the motto of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. As a member of this Clubhouse, that motto inspires me and each and every one of us to “BE GREAT” and make sure this summer is great! My personal motto is “Be Yourself.” As I enter the eighth grade and continue to think about my future, I will remember to stay true to myself!”
Wakeman Boys & Girls Club is committed to making sure the building is not only good for the community but also good for the environment. The Clubhouse was designed and constructed to meet the high standards of LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and efforts are underway to apply for LEED Gold certification.
This sustainable building includes solar panels, a “green” floor, 100% recycled subfloor, and a high-energy efficiency HVAC system, among other features. Additionally, more than 80% of the debris taken from the premises was recycled. From a design standpoint, great care was taken to ensure that natural sunlight could reach the children and staff who use interior rooms of the building by strategically aligning the exterior and interior windows. To teach the youngsters about recycling, the lobby features a cutout in the wall that shows the insulation used for the exterior walls of the building, which is made of recycled blue jeans.
The technology center features 24 new desktop computers, 15 of which were made possible by a donation from the LeBron James Foundation. James famously announced his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat from the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club last year. To thank Boys & Girls Clubs of America, he generously provided all of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Connecticut with the hardware and software for the new computers as well as the technical support needed to set up the technology center.
Wakeman Boys & Girls Club raised seven million dollars through a capital campaign to fund the design, construction, and first year of operation for the new Cubhouse. Joel Smilow, a local philanthropist and passionate advocate for Boys & Girls Clubs, jumpstarted the fundraising for the construction of the building with a $1.5 million donation. The annual operating budget for the new Clubhouse is $600,000, all of which will be raised through private donations and grants.
Bridgeport’s West End and Black Rock neighborhoods were a logical choice for the location both because of the synergy with Burroughs Community Center and the demographics of the surrounding area:
• 2,500 children live within a half mile of the new Clubhouse;
• English is not the first language spoken in 36% of the homes;
• More than 65% of households are led by a single mother; and
• Nearly 60% of families live below the poverty line.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America offers life-changing experiences by providing hope and opportunity when and where it is needed. The Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse will offer afterschool tutoring and homework help, build self-esteem and confidence, enhance opportunities for self-expression, address childhood obesity, and promote social responsibility.
To learn more about program offerings and special events, become a fan of “Wakeman Boys & Girls Club” on Facebook.
To make a tax-deductible donation, checks made payable to “Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse” may be sent to David Blagys, Wakeman’s Boys & Girls Club, P.O. Box 118, Southport, CT 06890.