Celebrating 60 years of changing lives

The year 2016 marks the 60th year of staff at the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley dedicating their time in order to change the lives of kids in the community for the better.

Through a large number of after-school programs for club kids to participate in, life skills are learned, and positive, long-lasting relationships are formed, according to the Lavietes unit executive director, Shaye Roscoe.

“Having the club kids return as adults and getting to see the productive members of the community they have become is the best thing in the entire world,” said Roscoe, who is from Shelton and began climbing the ranks at the Boys & Girls Club as an intern back in 1999, when it first opened.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Roscoe, who explained that the current four branches of the Boys & Girls Club actually began in a back room of a community center.

“It was called a boy’s club,” said Roscoe. “They didn’t allow girls in back then, but it’s amazing to sit back and see how much it has evolved and contributed to the lives of kids from all different communities. We really are forming the leaders of tomorrow.”

Currently, there are four branches of the Boys & Girls Club. There’s the Lavietes unit in Shelton, another Shelton branch based inside Sunnyside Elementary School, the Smilow Unit in Ansonia, and a unit in Seymour.

In total, the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley hosts around 3,000 club kids annually. In 2015-16 there were 3,080 club kids.

The Lavietes unit’s marketing and development coordinator, Lisa Savoid, said that from her six months working in Shelton and from her experience at Ansonia’s branch, she’s convinced there’s a direct correlation between a student’s future and the activities he or she is involved in.

“The more involvement, the safer our communities will be, the less teen pregnancies there will be,” said Savoid. “The public needs to recognize that it’s not just a place that will watch your kids. It’s actually a place that grooms good citizenship and builds morale.”

Savoid said when she moved to Ansonia in 2004, she was a single parent who needed someone to watch her son Jevon while she was at work. That’s when she was made aware of the Boys & Girls Club.

“Most people are like me. I had no idea of all the programs and things the Boys & Girls Club had to offer,” said Savoid. “I wanted him to be a basketball player — I was a basketball player — but it didn’t work out that way. He turned out to be a champion of Ping-Pong.”

She said she began to see the positive influence the club’s programs were having on her son as he became more involved in the community. Her son was even named Boy of the Year at Ansonia’s Smilow unit.

She shared an anecdote of how he took on the role of a “big brother” after spending years as a club kid. Savoid said it’s evidence of the ongoing cycle that the Boys & Girls Club hopes to inspire its members to take part in.

“Now my son is one of those kids we love to see that started off as a club kid and is now a mentor to the younger kids,” said Savoid.

She said at one point she volunteered to do a fitness class after school for the club members, but a change in jobs made that difficult to do. Savoid said she’s thankful for the role the Boys & Girls Club has had in her son’s development since her work schedule made it difficult to always be there for her son after school.

“Meanwhile, I’m at work, not able to do these things with my son, but he’s here learning some of the things I would’ve hoped to teach him. That’s totally priceless for me,” said Savoid.

On Nov. 10 the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley will celebrate its 60 years of success by holding a gala in Monroe at the Waterview. The event will feature generations of club members and returning staff members, as well as a speech given by the 2015 Connecticut state Youth of the Year recipient, Brooke Grand.

Roscoe said Grand is a phenomenal young woman who she hopes will inspire others when she talks about her experience as well as the impact being a part of the club has had on her.

If you or someone you know has an experience you’d like to share with the Boys & Girls Club family, email Press@BGC-LNV.org or call Ann Wheeler at 203-924-7462.  

Roscoe said the club looks to move forward continuing its success and keeping the legacy alive. She added that they do rely heavily on the involvement of the community, so they’re constantly looking for new volunteers and they’re always accepting donations.

“We’ve had tutors come in and teach sewing or Zumba classes. Just contact us and we’ll go from there,” said Roscoe.