Boys & Girls Club ‘going strong’: Members settling into new headquarters

Boys & Girls Club

Officials and children cut a ceremonial ribbon at the Boys & Girls Club last week.

When the Milford Boys & Girls Club started in Milford seven years ago, it was small and had an uncertain future. Today, the club is going strong.

Mayor Ben Blake and a group of local children and various officials cut a ribbon last week at the new Boys & Girls Clubhouse on Milford’s west side, in the former Simon Lake Elementary School.

The Boys & Girls Club started out in the West Shore recreation building next to Simon Lake School. But with numbers increasing each year, the club had been looking for new space.

Simon Lake School closed in recent years, and now the club has taken up space there. The club has several classrooms inside the former school, a kitchen and recreation room. And the group still holds onto the recreation building they started out in — it will be the Boy’s & Girls Teen Club.

“We’ve come a long way in the past seven years,” said Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Megan Altomare.

The club now serves 365 children annually, and has more than 50 programs. Altomare said the new clubhouse will give the club room for 100 additional children.

Meet the members

JaVonne Vereen, 14, was the master or ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting ceremony last Tuesday evening. He said he loves going to the club after school because he gets to be with friends, get his homework done and play basketball.

He said he moved to Milford five years ago and has been a member ever since.

Through the club, JaVonne has played on a new Milford Recreation Department basketball league and takes part in a program called “The Making of A Champion,” where he listens to inspirational speakers.

“It’s taught me how to understand my future,” he said.

Shymar Robinson, 14, likes to play basketball too, and he said he also appreciates the fact that he can get his homework done at the club.

The same goes for Diontae Eady, 11, and Justice Smith, 11, who said they also like the idea that there are adults around for mentoring and offering advice.

Julie Myers, 13, said the club is like a family, and she’s had a chance to show her leadership skills and do some public speaking as a club member. She’s already considering a career that involves public speaking.

 How it started

Former Speaker of the House James Amann was at the ceremony last Tuesday, though he wasn’t among the line-up of speakers.

It was Amann’s work that brought the club to Milford seven years ago, and as he stood listening to speeches, he said he is thrilled with how far it has come.

He recalled how the club here started.

In 1992 Amann had his campaign headquarters on Naugatuck Avenue, and one day a couple of local kids stopped in and decided to chat and then to offer to help with some little campaign tasks. They were looking for something to do.

The next day, more kids came, and before long it became a hangout of sorts for some of the local children, Amann said.

“That planted the seed that there was a need in the community,” Amann said.

Later, Amann pushed for funding and space for a local branch of the Boys & Girls Club, and he was heralded as one of the key movers and shakers to make the Milford Boys & Girls Club a reality.

“I never imagined it would turn into this,” Amann said. “It was worth every second.”

New space

The space within Simon Lake that the club has been allocated includes eight classrooms, a recreation room and kitchenette, which is more than 6,500 square feet of space. It’s at least double what the club has at the West Shore recreation building.

The club pays $1 a year to the Milford Board of Education to rent the space.

The club still has $1 million in state bonding funds that were earmarked for the group to build or remodel a structure for their use. Altomare said the money was allocated about three years ago and remains available to the club: A study will be done to determine the best way to use the funds.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Club of Milford, go to bgcmilford.org.

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