By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The outside walls of the new Boys and Girls Club on West Street stood in place as a construction crew continued its work on the new state-of-the-art facility.
Covered by high ceilings, and surrounded by wide open space and countless windows to let the light shine through, the new Boys and Girls Club will provide even more services to individuals of all ages, continuing its mission to “inspire and enable” people to “realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.” In just less than one year, the new center will be ready to serve the community, especially the West End. Serving the local community for over 100 years, the Boys and Girls Club has raised its $10 million mark for the project, and still has another $475,000 to go for its campaign.
The new facility, which will be named The Don Tinty Boys and Girls Club and Family Center, is scheduled to be up and running by September. The center is named in honor of Don Tinty, a local philanthropist and owner of Tinty’s Furniture who died in 2009. The Tinty Foundation donated $1.1 million to the project’s campaign.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Michael Suchopar, the CEO of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club. “It has moved quickly with very few problems.”
“It’s greatly needed—our [original] building was built in [the late 1920’s],” added Director of Marketing & Development Cathy Savino, referring to the club’s original facility built on Laurel Street.
During an exclusive tour with the executive team of the Boys and Girls Club, the Observer staff had a firsthand look recently on how the 38,000 square feet facility will add vibrancy to the city of Bristol, enhancing the services and programs it already provides while promoting new ones.
As members of the community enter the first floor of the facility, they will find a teen center to serve as a place for programming and social hub for middle school and high school students. There also will be a vocational kitchen they can use to enhance their cooking skills and to learn how to work together. Besides tapping into their creativity skills, youngsters can also engage in physical activity, since the new facility will provide not only a game room area but also a 14,000 square foot field house, which will include two basketball courts, each one used for indoor soccer, lacrosse or other athletic events. Everyone will have access to a changing area for families, locker rooms, and a shower area.
“We’re hoping it will draw more people from the entire city,” said Suchopar, noting how people who drive by the facility will be able to see children and adults actively using the center.
Adults and seniors also will have an opportunity to engage themselves in a variety of activities, as the new facility will offer a state-of-the-art technology center equipped with smartboards and other tools to stimulate learning. The new facility will offer an arts and science center for more activities that involve creativity such as crafts as well as a performing arts center, which will begin with music programs that feature opportunities to play the drums, guitar and keyboard.
“That is something we are really looking to grow over the years,” said Suchopar.
Besides exploring music, members of the community also will have an opportunity to use a community room in the new facility to practice Zumba, yoga, or other dancing activities. Those who enjoy ballet will have access to a ballet bar. Meanwhile, exercise aficionados can access an exercise room, which will provide different equipment, such as treadmills, bikes, and weights. The basement will serve as the home for the wrestling program.
Suchopar said overall the new facility not only provides additional space for members of the community, but also offers more room for programs that can reach children and adults at every level whether engaging them in technology, music programs or physical activities.
“We’ll be able to touch more people in this community in more creative ways,” said Suchopar, adding how the new facility also provides more space for the administrative staff to have their offices located closer together, which will provide more team synergy. “Our programs are excellent, and we are committed to growing our program in excellence.”
For Corey Morin, the superintendent of O&G Industries, Inc., which is involved in the project, the new Boys and Girls facility reminds him of his engagement in the club growing up. Born and raised in Bristol, Morin said many of the workers involved in the project were members of the Boys and Girls Club as children.
“This is a big project for Bristol,” said Morin.
Designed by Amara Associates, the new facility officially kicked off its groundbreaking this past November. Throughout its campaign, the Boys and Girls Club received contributions and donations from different people in the community, including ESPN, Walmart, and the Barnes family, among other individuals. Overall, the Boys and Girls Club has invested $21 million through its many projects, including the current one on West Street and the Imagine Nation Museum, among other expansions of services in the community. Serving between 500 and 1,000 children daily, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club offers programs that focus on education, health and character development. The club also includes 10 school-based programs, an Outreach Program at Cambridge Park, the Imagine Nation Museum, and preschool program
To help the Club reach its final fundraising goal, visit http://2014club.org/.