The Boys & Girls Club of Erie is a building-centered safe haven for young people to grow and learn and have fun, where secure attachments are formed with caring adult staff and volunteers, and every childís talent is nurtured, enabling them to achieve their full potential as productive adults and contributing citizens of the Erie community.
Foster secure attachments to caring adult mentors and teachers
Discover and nurture every child’s interest, talent and/or attribute
Provide a building centered safe place for youth to grow and learn and have fun
Provide diversified activities supported by sound educational and youth development principles and research
The Erie Boys Club, founded in 1895, was the 31st Boys Club founded in the United States and one of 53 organizations that created the national organization, Boys Club of America, in 1906. Boys Club of America was chartered by Congress in 1956 and officially became the Boys & Girls Club of America in 1989.
The Boys & Girls Club, founded in 1895, is one of Erie’s oldest charities. It was the thirty-first Boys Club founded in the U.S. Today there are Clubs in every state in the union and just about every military base in the world.
The Club is not just a nonprofit institution but a charity in the truest sense in that it serves one of our community’s most vulnerable populations: children from disadvantaged circumstances. Virtually all of the kids who come to the Club every day have a formidable challenge that stands in the way of a safe, secure and successful childhood.
John Bolby, generally regarded as the father of attachment theory, described that challenge this way: “All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, large or small, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”
So who is in the business of building the base that is the foundation of a child’s life? Historically, as a community, as a society, we have relied on the home or the school or the church to provide the base upon which the independent identity of a child is built, but in too many circumstances, if it weren’t for a charity like the Club, that base would never be built.
If you’re going to build the house that is a child’s life and you start on the first or second floor, as is too often the case, it’s going to be a pretty rickety structure, one that will in all probability, at some point, collapse.
You have to start with the footer, the floor, the foundation. You have to start with, to borrow from Bolby, the base.
That is precisely what makes the Club one of Erie’s truly unique institutions, one whose mission is to create a secure base for young people by building attachment relationships in a warm and safe environment, in an environment that nurtures talents and encourages autonomy, what Bolby called excursions.
And by building that base, we are engaged in taking care of what is foundationally important in every child’s life, so that the house, the life, that we build, will never fall, but instead will stand firm today, tomorrow and far into a future full of promise for every single child.
This is an excerpt and adaptation of a speech delivered to the Erie Rotary in April 2018 by the Club’s executive director, Al Messina.