BRATTLEBORO—On a recent Tuesday afternoon, members and staff of the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro applauded as a 2019 Toyota Sienna turned the corner of Main and Flat streets and headed for their clubhouse.
When it pulled up, Jason Woods of Boys & Girls Clubs of America stepped out and handed the keys, and a folder with the vehicle’s title, to BGCB Executive Director Ricky Davidson.
The new van had arrived, and with it, according to Davidson, one more way for the Brattleboro club to “see the world beyond Brattleboro.”
This year, BGCB — which takes kids on outdoor adventures, college visits, visits to other clubs, and trips to sporting events — is one of three clubs in the U.S. to receive a new, eight-passenger minivan, along with a $25,000 grant. The award is part of BGCA’s annual Back2School campaign in partnership with retailers around the country, including Toyota.
Davidson said Brattleboro club members were excited to learn that members of the national organization would be visiting.
“It’s amazing,” said Jamie Mahon, director of development and marketing at the Brattleboro club, “Little Brattleboro was chosen for something so great.”
Woods, the tour manager charged with dropping off the vans at winning clubs, says his job comes with 10 weeks of intense travel. He’s seen “all four corners of the country.”
The van had traveled from Atlanta, to North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Ohio, and New York. During the drive to Vermont, Woods and his colleague Tony Barnett stopped at various clubs for special events.
There are more than 4,000 clubs around the country and on military bases. The other two winning clubs were Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver in Colorado, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Coast in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
“Rarely are two clubs ever the same,” Woods said. “Brattleboro is a prime example.”
Woods said he’d never seen a parking garage re-purposed into a club. He also praised the indoor skatepark and said staff had told him about how Tropical Storm Irene had flooded the club in 2011.
One thing all clubs have in common, Woods said, “is the love, passion, and the commitment of the staff.”
“The true thanks should go to Ricky [Davidson] and the staff,” Woods said. “They’re the boots on the ground.”
Mahon said the club applied for the Back2School grant before the summer.
Part of the application required the club to create a teen and community strategic engagement plan. The club highlighted in its application the various summer programs it offered for its members, such as its Keystone teen leadership and community service program and a book group that has partnered with Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro and the Marlboro College library.
The club also mentioned its Prism program for members who identify as LGBTQ. This group was previously offered monthly at the club. Starting this month, Prism will meet weekly.
Mahon said summer at the club and for families is extra busy, with day camps from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as family vacations.
The club is a summer meal site, Mahon said. In the past, it partnered with public schools to offer meals. This summer, the club set out on its own to provide free lunch and dinners to its members and their families.
“All kids in this community need the club,” Mahon said. “We offer something for everyone.”
Over the summer, Mahon said, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America monitored the club’s summer attendance.
According to Davidson, the club averaged 58 members attending daily throughout August. That number is lower than during the school year, he said. The club has approximately 700 enrolled members.
The Brattleboro Club has a mini-bus and a 15-passenger van. Both came to the club used, Mahon said. The Toyota Sienna is the club’s first brand new vehicle.
The best thing about the $25,000 grant, Mahon noted, is that the funds aren’t earmarked by either the national organization or Toyota for specific programs; the Brattleboro club can put the money were it will do the most good.