MANCHESTER, NH – The blue skies and warm weather matched the upbeat mood in the crowd on Monday morning as the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester (BGCM) held a special event to unveil the Edward S. Wolak Clubhouse Annex at its Union Street facility.
In welcoming the gathering of about 150 community leaders, donors, elected officials, and staff, BGCM CEO Diane Fitzpatrick shared her excitement of the new addition saying, “I couldn’t sleep last night.” She called the new annex, which will add 4,000 square feet of space to serve kindergarten and first-graders, “a first step back” as the club moves forward in the wake of the pandemic. She credited “bold thinking” of the many principals who helped complete the project with an eye toward current and future needs of local youth. “The ‘new normal’ is not good enough for these kids.”
Following her opening remarks, Fitzpatrick then welcomed an impressive roster of speakers including Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Governor Chris Sununu, Congressman Chris Pappas, and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan.
Mayor Craig called the effort to create the new space “Herculean” while reminding the assemblage that with 70 percent of Manchester’s youth qualifying for free or reduced-cost lunches, the need for the programs and services of the Club is acute. Gov Sununu lauded Fitzpatrick as a “steam roller” when it comes to getting things done and called the Club a model for the rest of the state. “Nothing slowed this project down,” he marveled.
Congressman Pappas noted that “we need more moments like this. . . (this project) is for our kids and for our future.” Senator Hassan rounded out the speeches from the political VIPs by sharing her memories while governor when she visited the Club to have lunch with the kids, fondly recounting “un-filtered” conversations with club members. The daughter of a schoolteacher, Hassan said that the focus of the new space-the youngest students was an important building block for future success. She said her mother always stressed the importance of a child “having a grown-up in their corner.”
As she welcomed speakers for the second part of the program, Fitzpatrick called the project an “incredible journey” that will have “a generational impact” and praised dozens of contractors, employees, volunteers, and others for their efforts. The result, she said, will mean more kids in need can be served.
Stephen McMahon, long-time Board member and Campaign Chair was next on the agenda. McMahon recalled a trip he and others took to a Boys and Girls Club in Worcester, Mass., 15 years ago and how they were wowed by what they saw. Upon returning to Manchester, they wanted to do more for the Union Street fixture, which at the time could not house all its programs onsite. The Club has now moved all programs into one place and serves double the number of kids it did back then. McMahon ticked off a long list of benefits the club now offers, from programs like STEAM, a teen center, and a full kitchen. He said beyond the bricks and mortar elements of the club, it offers those in need important role models. “Every kid needs an adult they don’t want to disappoint . . . the formula works.”
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Edward S. Wolak then stepped up the podium. A club alumnus who was named the club’s 1967 Boy of the Year, Wolak called his time at the club, “the single most formative influence in my life.” Now president & CEO of the Wolak Group which owns and operates more than 95 Dunkin’ restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, he called the club “a second home” for him as a youngster at 14, where he volunteered for duties included making popcorn and keeping tracking of pool cues. Now at the helm of an organization with more than 2,000 employees, Wolak credits the club for giving him a foundation for success and work ethic. The mentors at the club “gave me someone to look up to . . . my story might have ended differently had it not been for the Boys and Girls Club.”
Wolak then wielded a giant pair of scissors for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and the new space was officially open.
The Club also shared some key factoids:
- The More Kids, Brighter Futures capital campaign, completed December 31, 2019, met and exceeded the campaign goal of $5.85 million
- Phase I: Complete renovation and revitalization of Camp Foster (Bedford, NH) – project completed June 2019
- Phase II: 4,000 square foot expansion at the Union Street Clubhouse – completed May 2021
- Ultimate campaign goal – to increase the number of children served by BGCM
- New space allows BGCM to expand services to include kindergarten children and expand STEAM program area
- Nearly 400 individuals, corporations, and foundations supported this campaign.
Over the past several years, this columnist has had multiple opportunities to see the Club’s work up close and interact with its members, staff, and volunteers. Daily, they are truly making our community better and stronger by creating a brighter future for kids. To learn more, please visit: https://www.mbgcnh.org/