Shelton donates van to Bridgeport youth club

Jerome Orcutt Boys & Girls Club, in Bridgeport, Conn. Aug. 12, 2019.

Jerome Orcutt Boys & Girls Club, in Bridgeport, Conn. Aug. 12, 2019.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — One Bridgeport-based youth organization received an early Christmas gift, thanks to Shelton's Board of Aldermen. 

The board at its meeting last week voted to donate a 22-passenger van — one Mayor Mark Lauretti says is part of the city’s bus fleet that receives little use — to the Jerome Orcutt Club for the organization’s after-school programs

“It is the right thing for the city to do,” Lauretti said. “This is a small way that we can do our part (to help).” 

Kevin Laing, a Shelton resident, business owner and president of the club's board, appeared before the aldermen to ask for the donation, one he said is key to the after-school programs' success. 

“A (van) is not an incremental improvement. It is transformational,” said Laing, whose family moved to Shelton when he was a senior in high school and has known Lauretti since then. “This will change how we operate. This is all about helping others.” 

Laing said when the facility gauged interest in creating after-school programs, some 100 families expressed interest. The challenge, he said, was most families needed transportation, which the center could not provide. 

“Our challenge is we are located in the poorest section of the state — the East Side of Bridgeport,” Laing said about the facility, located at 102 Park Street.

With that in mind, Laing said many families were concerned about letting their children find their own way to the center since, in many cases, work commitments prevented these parents from transporting their children at those hours. 

“When I came here (to Shelton), I was able to see what I could be,” Laing said. “Now I am a CPA, a local business owner, and it is all because of what I was exposed to in Shelton. I would like to see that for the kids in (the Bridgeport) community.” 

Jerome Orcutt Club for boys and girls, which opened in 1887 and, according to Laing, is one of the oldest in the nation, offers a tutoring program, an educational and outreach program, a community service program and basketball training. 

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., said the donation is “in keeping with the Christmas season. 

“This couldn’t come at a better time,” Anglace said. “(Laing) is giving back to the community, and he is really being tested, and he needs all the help he can get, especially during the Christmas season. It feels good to help him.” 

Anglace said the city received requests from numerous nonprofits in and outside of Shelton, but this was one that stood out as a desperate need. 

“(Laing) has taken this on as a personal challenge, and we are so proud of him,” Anglace added. “We want to be there for him.”