The Boys & Girls Club of Middlesex County is celebrating its 40th year as an organization in 2013, and while it now serves several communities in the area, the Club’s roots are in Somerville. The Somerville Boys Club opened its doors at its original location on Bow Street in Union Square in September 1973 and in addition to a milestone anniversary, this year has brought a new director to the organization.
Lindsay Smythe moved to Somerville in January and has been applying her background in social work, sociology and youth services to her new position at the Boys & Girls Club.
“I picked Somerville because I was ready to live closer to the city,” said Smythe, who came to the area from Connecticut and has previously lived on the North Shore. “I wanted to live in the community I’m serving.”
Smythe started her career in social work and also has experience working behind the scenes in the theater, where she learned a lot about management and fundraising. But it was her work mentoring children of prisoners that ignited her true passion.
“I fell in love with the kids and youth work. It really just grabbed onto my heart,” Smythe said. After pursuing a master’s in nonprofit management, Smythe realized all the jobs she was applying to were youth-focused. She had found her true calling.
Now Smythe is the head of the Boys & Girls Club of Middlesex County, which serves 2,000 children each year in four communities (Somerville, Cambridge, Medford and Everett).
“We are very happy to have her,” said Kerry Robert, a Boys & Girls Club of Middlesex County board member and Somerville resident. “There was an exhaustive search to find the right person to serve our communities and Lindsay was the standout. We’re really, really happy to have her. She has a wealth of experience with different nonprofits and different missions and great programming experience as well as development experience. She’s been in her role for a month and we’re very impressed so far.”
In Somerville, the club at the Healey School serves 75-90 kids per day and more than 200 each year. It is a scaled-down version of the club that used to be at 181 Washington St. and it primarily serves kids between the ages of 6 and 13. Eighty-percent of them are from low-income households and 80% to 90% are from households where English is a second language.
“We serve the kids who need us most,” Smythe said. “Somerville is just the kind of community where we want to have a presence. We want to share what we’re doing in the hopes that we can do more.”
Currently, the club at the Healey School offers after-school programs and services for $30 per year to any Somerville child. There is homework help available as well as special programs that focus on creating and maintaining healthy habits. The goal of the Boys & Girls Club is to provide a safe, welcoming environment for kids to go in the hours between when school ends and their parents come home from work.
“It provides the kids with the help and resources they need to excel and do well in school,” Robert said. Smythe added, “Children from any family can come find a place that is safe and positive.”
But the Boys & Girls Club isn’t all work and no play. In fact, a big focus of the organization is on learning and empowerment through fun. The Somerville Club, which has a big focus on getting outside and into nature, recently took an overnight trip to New Hampshire.
“It’s one of the positive youth activities that are contributing to the growth and development and quality of life of all families in Somerville,” Smythe said.
In her new role as director, Smythe hopes to reach out to the Somerville community more, partnering with local businesses and organizations and bringing individual citizens in to volunteer for both long- and short-term projects.
Smythe looks at the 40th anniversary as a time to celebrate, but also a time to begin new initiatives, like a fundraising golf tournament in the fall. The Club is also seeking former members, whether they attended a local chapter or one in another community, to share their stories about how the Boys & Girls Club has affected their lives.
“Being part of the Boys & Girls Club should be fun for all involved,” Smythe said. “It’s a really fun way to give back.”
Robert certainly feels that way. She worked as a camp counselor at a Boys & Girls Club in her home state of Rhode Island and when she settled in Somerville in 2005, she knew she wanted to get involved in the local chapter.
“It means a lot to me as a Somerville resident,” Robert said. “I got in touch with the mission of the Boys & Girls Club and the profound impact it can have in the lives of children and support it can provide for parents and families. I think this is an organization and a mission that I will always be involved in, in an emotional and community capacity.”
If you have a story to share about being a member of the Boys & Girls Club or if you want to get involved in the club, you can contact the local organization.
Images courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlesex County.