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Grand Opening For Wakeman Boys & Girls Club

June 30th, 2011 · 7 Comments · News and Events

ribbon cutting with kids

Mayor Bill Finch and Joel & Joan Smilow (center) celebrate the ribbon cutting with children who are new members of the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse.

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.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • power to the people

    Holy moly … this whole project was made possible through $7 million in private funding? In the middle of one of the worst economic downturns ever? That’s amazing and a true testament to the commitment Wakeman dedicates to being a positive influence in the community. You talk with anyone who’s been associated with those guys–going back generations–and it’s nothing but raves about how much they loved it and want every kid to have the same experience.

    Nice job everyone. Kudos to Dave Blagys & Kevin Simmons for shepherding the project along a sometimes rocky road. It took real vision and hard work on the part of both Wakeman and the Burroughs Community Center to prevent this from being another nice idea that went nowhere.

    It’s notable the mayor had no part in making this happen … vision came from residents and money came from private individuals.

  • Nancy Hadley

    The Wakeman and Burroughs Community Center Board and staff used Federal New Market Tax Credits to incentivize the private sector donors. Bridgeport has been designated by the Federal Government as a distressed/emerging market. The good news is the Federal Government’s distressed designation makes very targeted tax credit incentives available to private investors to encourage them to invest in Bridgeport rather than the ‘burbs. Federal New Market Tax Credits have incentivized three other major projects in Bridgeport; The City Trust; Arcade and 144 Golden Hill historic rehabilitations; and the Bijou Square renovation. This generated over $80 million in private investment in Downtown Bridgeport. More information on the many financial incentives available to those who might want to invest in Bridgeport is available on the Bridgeport page of my website
    www .hadleygroupllc.com.
    These credits are available to do more deals.

    Bravo to Wakeman and Burroughs Board, staff, and donors for pursuing these federal tax credit incentives! It is a wonderful facility that will serve thousands of children.

  • Mojo

    *** Let’s hope the other Boys & Girls Clubs in Bpt get lucky too! ***

  • countdown

    It’s more than luck, Mojo. It needs an active dedicated board with a top-notch staff to pull off such a complicated transaction.

    • Vigilante

      You’re sorta correct. Part of the problem is Finch and his minions want the properties on Madison Ave and E. Main St for some purpose. Those two locations have been put upon by the administration. Both are active and important operations. Finch doesn’t like them because Ken Bruno supported Caruso. Auden Grogins, who was instrumental in getting the Burroughs funding, was taking care of business in her district. Jack Hennessey, who is a serious do-nothing, has done nothing in any form on his own for Bridgeport. If he knew what to do he’d be useful. Don’t forget he’s the one who was caught playing solitaire on the internet and lied about his military background (i.e. he claims to be a U.S. Army Ranger, but has no Ranger training and was only assigned to a Ranger unit in the Conn. Nat’l Guard).

  • Antitesto

    Hey Little Billy,
    Run with the scissors!

  • Mojo

    *** Good political avenue to use for the candidates interested in helping city youth, no? *** EASIER TO BUILD CHILDREN THAN TO MEND ADULTS ***

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