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Club History

In New Britain, Connecticut, 25 years after the end of the Civil War, a small band of influential and concerned citizens were united under the leadership of John C. Eastman, Secretary of the Connecticut Auxiliary Committee on Work for Boys, for the purpose of organizing a Boys Club modeled after the Club that was founded in 1860 in Hartford. This dedicated group of volunteers worked tirelessly to raise $100, and on March 10, 1891, the Boys Club of New Britain opened its doors in the Herald Hall on Church Street. The Club provided a place where 400 boys could participate in sports, recreation, and learn basic skills they would use throughout their lives.

Over the next 115 years, the Club was witness to the inauguration of 21 presidents, the first flight of the Wright Brothers, the invention of the horseless carriage, the settlement of the Western frontier, the Stock Market crash of 1929, two world wars, several world conflicts, the invention of the electric light bulb, radio, television, the computer, and the landing of a man on the moon.

At the turn of the century, America experienced growth as a nation. The Industrial Revolution was in high gear and the country was a magnet for immigrants from all over the world. The city of New Britain assumed the character of a major metropolitan area prospering during this period, through its growth as both an industrial as well as population center.

European migration into the area was particularly heavy. The Boys Club became an integral part in the family life of those immigrants by helping them adapt to their new country and providing them with many of the skills they needed to survive. The Boys Club provided a safe haven where boys of any nationality, race, or religion could come and develop important physical, mental, and moral skills.

Boys Clubs during this period were in their infancy, with the National Federation of Boys Clubs not evolving until 1906. The New Britain Club continued to grow in size and stature and in 1916 moved to a two-family wooden house on East Main Street. It was at this location that the Club offered dormitories for boys who were without homes. In 1920, the Club dedicated a new gymnasium which enabled it to better serve its over 900 members.

The Club marked the beginning of an era in its evolution with the hiring of Dwight Skinner, a former Boys Scout Professional, as its Executive Director, a position that he would retain for the next 39 years. Mr. Skinner founded the Ladies Auxiliary of the New Britain Boys Club. The auxiliary would become invaluable during the Great Depression of the 1930’s when the Community Chest collapsed and left the agencies it supported, such as the Boys Club, without funding. It was the Ladies Auxiliary, in tandem with Skinner and the Board of Directors, who developed the means to maintain operations at the club without interrupting services, despite the devastating economic conditions of the period. The signal that the New Britain Boys Club had weathered this catastrophic epoch in American history came in 1934 when the Club’s application for membership in the Boys Club Association of America was approved.

The Club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1941 and once again saw many of its sons march off to war. However, the Club became the central caretaker for many boys whose mothers were now working in defense plants, and whose fathers were off fighting the war. It was the Boys Club who helped preserve the family structure during a time which is considered to be one of the darkest the world has ever known.

Following the conclusion of the war, focus was placed on putting the lives of families torn apart by war back together. Once again, the Boys Club was there to meet the challenge. The Club continued to grow and prosper to meet the needs of a new social consciousness where mothers and fathers both worked, where television became the main source of leisure time activity, and where the country prepared to enter the tumultuous decade of the 50’s.

1950 saw the construction of a brick building to replace the original wooden structure, with 1957 bringing the dedication of the Abbe Memorial Swimming Pool. A sad year was marked in 1962 in the history of the organization with the premature passing of Dwight Skinner. John Karbonic was appointed as Executive Director and would remain in the position for 20 years. Under Mr. Karbonic’s leadership, the Club would survive the teenage revolution of the 1960’s and move into the 1970’s.

In 1971, a capital fund drive was kicked off for the relocation of the Club due to massive development of the Route 72 highway, which would bisect the city. 1972 saw the establishment of the Angelo Tomasso Sr. Memorial Scholarship at the Club and the dedication of its current building at 150 Washington Street.

As the Club entered the 1980’s with its ever-increasing complex social issues, it focused on adapting to meet the needs of a whole new generation of boys with their own unique problems.  The reins of command were passed to Stan Glowiak in 1983 to meet these new and demanding challenges. Once again, the Ladies Auxiliary was there to establish the John Karbonic Scholarship.

1986 was a banner year for the Boys Club when its membership roles reached a new all-time high of 1654 members. In 1988, the Boys Club dedicated the Nazzarena Tomasso Park, an outdoor recreational facility, and at the same time began the development of a long-range plan which would help it provide the next three generations of New Britain’s youth. The Club, in adapting its focus to address a whole new series of problems facing youth, dedicated the Ernie Brainard Learning Center in 1989 and took over the operation of Camp Schade in 1990.

On February 26, 1992, the Boys Club officially changed its name to the Boys & Girls Club of New Britain, now opening its doors to include the young female population of the City. Renovations took place to complete the transition with the building being re-dedicated on December 9, 1992. Also during 1992, Todd Czuprinski was appointed as Executive Director of the Club with the goal to meet the ever changing needs of youth in the 1990’s and beyond.

Now, as the Boys & Girls Club of New Britain goes into the new millennium, we have again risen to new challenges. Ever changing technology has brought the addition of a computer lab and technology center. In 1997 we began to operate a state licensed Day Care center for 3 and 4 year olds and are NAEYC accredited.

Because we continue to meet the needs of families, our doors open every day after school for members, leading membership to increase steadily. Our Club now averages 2,500 members per year, of which approximately 700 are girls. This has become a main focus as we continue to expand programming for our young female members.

Sadly, 2005 saw the end of an era when the Ladies Auxiliary disbanded. Due to a lack of new membership and the current members being infirmed or aging, the Ladies Auxiliary was left with no other option than to dissolve. Many years of dedicated service were given by the Auxiliary and we appreciate all of their hard work.

The 100th anniversary of Boys & Girls Clubs of America was celebrated in 2006. This anniversary is special because our Boys & Girls Club is one of the first 53 clubs that united in Boston in 1906 to form the Federated Boys’ Clubs, the first organization of its kind.

Also in 2006, after 115 years, we celebrated another milestone.

Judith K. Greco, admired local educator and respected community leader, who has been an active board member for more than thirty years, would be the first woman president of the Club!

During this time, the Club’s board and professional staff saw a great need to refurbish, update, and renovate certain parts of the Club in order to continue its tradition of excellence in strengthening New Britain’s families, neighborhoods, and most especially the lives of its children and teens.

The Club at the time focused on three essential program areas: academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles—areas that were critical in creating positive opportunities to develop youth, rather than the older program model of the 1980s that, nationally, addressed “fixing” problems related to high-risk activities that youth engaged in.

This programmatic shift would prove to be instrumental in framing the capital campaign that would eventually launch toward the end of 2008, almost twenty years since its last capital campaign.

The mission of the Club during this time was to promote the total development and well-being of youth without regard to social, economic, racial, ethnic, or religious background, and would become the rallying cry for a $3,000,000, three-phase capital improvement and endowment-building community campaign meant to replace the roof and HVAC system, upgrade internal and external projects, including creating a new school bus turn-around system in the parking area, and adding to the endowment fund as a way to ensure future financial security of the Club.

As Greco led the board to fully back the capital campaign, board members Paul D’Addabbo and Lindsley Wellman were selected to chair the campaign committee, reaching deep into the community for unprecedented charitable support.  And so the campaign began its quiet phase in the fall of 2008.

The western economy was rocked in late 2008 and early 2009 by a global economic crash that would become known as the “great recession”, yet the Boys & Girls Club took the courageous step to push forward, not placing the campaign on hold, and merely slowed the pace of construction, under the watchful leadership of long time board member and respected community leader Michael Timura. 

Timura and his construction partner executive director Todd Czuprinski resolved to stay on track, matching each renovation project to the charitable dollars, as they were raised. The Club maintained focus and took its time building important community relationships and telling its story of the role the Club played in the life of New Britain.  The capital campaign forged ahead at a slow and steady pace.

As the local economy started to bounce back, the Club achieved its capital campaign goal, with each square inch of the Club’s almost 44,000 square feet of operating space being positively enhanced by the generous charitable support from the New Britain community.

In 2012, board president Paul D’Addabbo, during the Club’s Annual Meeting, reported on the final construction projects underway, and adopted the new community on the completion of the Next Best Place to Home! capital campaign, thanking the public in his remarks by noting, “It takes a collaborative community response to help our kids realize their full potential…and we recently adapted our mission statement to keep up with the essence of what we do to read: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”

This was the perfect moment in the Club’s history to update the mission statement, anticipating new and emerging community needs of New Britain’s young people.  High tech gadgets were part of the mainstream and a childhood obesity epidemic was a major nationwide public health concern. 

The D’Addabbo and Czuprinski leadership team successfully closed out the campaign and building renovation projects, with Timura’s steady hand,  re-framed the program focus to meet emerging needs, and celebrated New Britain’s fourth Connecticut Youth of the Year winner,  as Kwabena Afum  successfully won this prestigious competition against sixteen other teens from across the state.

As D’Addabbo handed the leadership reigns over to Stan Szczepanik, community leader, businessman, and New Britain Boys & Girls Club alumnus, the national movement in youth programming shifted its focus to intentional outcome measurements, metrics, and enhanced data and record keeping through the National Youth Outcomes Initiative.  The New Britain Club had for the past five years focused on measuring program impact, so the shift was welcomed and the Club was ahead of this national curve.

New technologies and internal systems were developed during the 2013-2014 fiscal year to look at progress and outcomes of the Club’s core programs, such as SMART Girls, recreation and enrichment, Project VIP, child care services, Power Hour/Homework Club, as well as new programs such as the Technology Center activities, the Young Chefs Program, and the recently developed ACE program.

The ACE program is an innovative hands-on, practical program introducing members to the fields of architecture, construction, and engineering, through a local volunteer-led team, to members in the 9th through 12th grades.

In late 2014 and early 2015, the Club’s staff leadership once again adapted its program offerings to reflect new national trends, focusing on the essentials of academic success, coupled with serving the whole child.

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