Boys & Girls Clubs in Vermont are on the move and positively changing.
It's hard to believe summer passed so quickly and we're already into fall. In many parts of the country, it signals a changing of foliage and a beautiful time of the year for scenery. This year, it also signals the 75th Anniversary of the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington and cause for celebration. I was fortunate enough to be on hand to thank the community, civic and business leaders, volunteers and, of course, enjoy some birthday cake with Club youth.
It was also an opportunity to recognize a very special volunteer, Roger Preis, with one of the two Maytag Dependable Leader Awards presented in 2018. Roger has been an active supporter of Clubs for over 40 years, going back to his early involvement in Stanford, Connecticut, including past president of the board in Burlington. Never wavering in his commitment, tenacity and drive to help make a difference made him a natural recipient for the award -- as well as a two-time recipient of BGCA's prestigious National Service Award for Youth.
It was special to spend time with Roger and his family, getting to know them better. He has a keen interest and understanding of the importance of having the best talent possible to work with youth, how to run organizations (he ran a recruiting and search firm for years) and how to be an exceptional board member . He also has a deep commitment for creating great experiences for youth and the best possible Boys & Girls Clubs. Roger has been a stalwart champion for youth for decades and a remarkable member of our massive Boys & Girls Club family over that time.
The celebration took place in a dedicated facility (donated to the Club by the city), which was designed by teens and concentrates on the Club's Early Promise program. Roger was part of the team that developed Early Promise, which helps youth stay on a path towards high school graduation and on to college. The program’s success is a hallmark of recent Club initiatives, with over 30 youth currently participating and seven going on to a post-secondary education this year. A special shoutout to Executive Director Tanya Benosky, her team and the board volunteers for all they do to make a difference every day for youth.
After the festivities in Burlington, it was on to Vergennes, a community of some 2,800 about 45 minutes away. Just three weeks ago, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes opened a brand new facility and already has plans to expand into adjoining space, a potential addition on the second floor. The Club is named for Philip and Roberta Puschel, who'd arrived just hours earlier from overseas to be on hand to greet us. Most of the board was in attendance and we talked about progress over the last few years, along with challenges and, today, the successes that have been achieved.
Board Chair Jeff Fritz is a dynamic individual with an unstoppable passion for making a difference in kids’ lives. Executive Director Jill Strube has done a wonderful job establishing the new facility and building core programs along with staff practices to support academic success, good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles and great experiences for youth—congratulations!
Just as the leaves are delightfully transforming throughout the state, Boys & Girls Clubs in Vermont are on the move and positively changing, as well.