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November 22, 2023 30 mins
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(00:02):
Welcome the Pulse of the Region,brought to you by the Metro Hertford Alliance.
The Metro Hertford Alliance collaborates with investorsand partners to elevate the Hartford region
through economic development work, convening thecommunity around shared challenges, and providing local
chamber support. Learn more about theirmission and how to get involved at Metrohartford
dot com. Pulse of the Regionis produced in partnership with OKILL. Originally

(00:25):
founded as a school for the blindin eighteen ninety three, Okkill has provided
holistic, person centered services for individualswith disabilities for over one hundred and thirty
years. With empowerment and independence asits guiding principles. OKILL works in partnership
with the individuals it serves to provideresidential education and enrichment opportunities. Learn more
at okillct dot org. Now here'syour host for Pulse of the Region.

(00:49):
Kate Balman, Hello and welcome toPulse of the Region. We are thrilled
to have you join us here today. I'm your host, Kate Bauman.
Welcome you you to the show wherewe spotlight all of the great things happening
here throughout our Hertford Region. Soagain, thank you for joining us today,
as today we are getting the Pulseabout the Boys and Girls Club of
Hartford, and my goodness, isthere a lot to talk about. So

(01:12):
I'm very excited that today we arejoined by their president and CEO, Sam
Gray. So first of all,Sam, welcome to Pulse of the Region.
So happy to have you on herewith us today, and thank you
so much for having me today.Of course, of course I told your
team has really set you up heretoday because they're putting you on the hot
seat. There's a thirty minutes it'sall Sam, like, let's let's let

(01:34):
them roll. That sounds great,fantastic, well Sam, certainly, so
many of our listeners, you know, I'm sure know about the Boys and
Girls Club, but I always thinkit's great to kind of give a refresher,
a reminder upfront just about your organizationand then if you could talk a
little bit about just your footprint herein Hartford. Sure, so a little
bit about our organization. You know, this year we're celebrating one hundred and

(01:57):
sixty three years as the founding Boysand Girls Club. So when you think
about boys and girls clubs here andthere, just know that Boys and Girls
Clubs started right here in Hartford,Connecticut by four women. It was interesting
because they actually heard a call toaction sermon at Asylum Hill Congregational Church and

(02:19):
the pastor at the time his namewas Father Hawley, and his call to
action during his sermon was to havehis congregation open up their doors to get
young boys off the streets. Okay, you're talking about the same time as
this, you know, the beginningof the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln is
running as president. But at thesame time Harford, a lot of the
young boys at the time were verymischievous, and so he wanted the congregation

(02:44):
to open up their doors. Andthe four women are those prominent names that
you hear in greater Hartford, youknow, Luis Bushnell, Mary and Alice
Goodwin, Elizabeth Hammersley. One ofthem had a home on Pratt Street right
down Ontown Hartford, and they openup their doors as a way to get
boys off the streets. And Idon't think those women would ever imagine from

(03:07):
that sermon open up their doors providinga safe haven for young boys, that
it would grow into the largest youthdevelopment organization. And we had the distinguished
honor of being the birthplace of boysand girls clubs throughout the world. It's
absolutely incredible, and I've heard rumors, so I wanted to ask you this

(03:28):
today, Sam, because on PrattStreet, is it the location where the
new Urban Lodge brewery just opened?Was that where it started? So it
was like ninety three or ninety five? Okay, all right, so it's
pretty close, right, yeah,yeah, right in that area. Okay.
I would love to get a historicalmarker there, just just to memorialize

(03:49):
our humble beginnings. But Pratt Streetis a happening street for Hartford, it
is. And to know that ourbirthplace was right there, and then so
many vibrant businesses are right there onthat street in the surrounding area, it's
exciting. It is. It's veryexciting. And you know, certainly now
the footprint here in Hartford is incredible, whereas so eight clubs throughout the city.

(04:11):
Correct, that's correct, okay,And we're fortunate enough to have a
program in Windsor with Windsor public schoolsas well, so we're very excited about
that partnership as well. Okay,very nice. Yeah, So our footprint
is the greater Hartford area although we'relocated primarily in Hartford, we do have
a lot of kids that are comingfrom the suburbs into our various sites throughout
the city of Hartford. So okay, good footprint. Definitely good footprint.

(04:34):
And about how many kids are youserving on an annual basis? Yeah,
so on an annual basis, we'reprobably around close to five thousand. Okay
number when you think about pre pandemic, right, we were probably serving close
to ten thousand. I think we'reon an up tick now where there's some

(04:54):
sense of normalcy happening for a lotof us. That we are starting to
see more and more kids finding anafter school or out of school time at
a local boys and girls club.Okay, that's great, that's wonderful.
And sea most recently is you've shareda new strategic plan, And first of
all, I want to commend youbecause the video that goes along with this

(05:16):
I thought was fantastic and really explainthis. So I certainly we can share
where people can watch that video,but would love to get from your perspective,
you know, let's dive a littlebit deeper about this strategic plan.
But first things first, just ifyou could provide an overview of what is
the plan and compass. Yeah,So bottom line is keeping kids first.
That's who we are. At thecore of us as an organization, It's

(05:40):
about youth, right, and weprimarily serve youth between the ages of six
through eighteen. Our mission is toenable all young people, especially those who
need us the most, to realizetheir full potential is productive care and responsible
citizens. So if you have thatas the mission statement, right, and
if you can picture what does ourroadmap for the future look like? Is

(06:03):
really focusing in five areas, right? And I would say at the heart
the core of it, it's people, you know. So I talk about
kids first, right, but youknow, kids don't come because of our
programs or our buildings. They comebecause of the people, whether they're full
time, part time volunteers or ourborder trustees. That's at the core.

(06:28):
And so we want to make surewe have the right people in our facilities,
building those supportive relationships so that ultimatelywe can achieve our mission with young
people. Right. The second areais really about our programs, right,
making sure we have a diverse programsand services for youth for those various ranges,

(06:48):
right, So we really look atyouth development. We also want to
make sure that we have programs thatare vibrant and scale the range right,
So when you think about health andwellness, when you talk about life and
workforce readiness, when you talk aboutsteam programs, when you talk about character

(07:09):
and leadership development, development, whenyou look at how do you sprinkle in
diversity, equity, inclusion. That'swho we are as an organization, and
I'm very proud of the direction we'regoing in regards to our programs and services
that we offer after school. Ithink I might have missed one area as
far as programming. Yeah, academicsuccess. You want to make sure every

(07:32):
king we compliment what's happening during theschool day, that they have a safe,
quiet place with support in regards totutors or staff to help young people
complete their homework. We find thatthe number one thing that most of our
parents ask us to do while they'reworking, and we have their kids in

(07:55):
our care help them with their homeworkso that they can have more quality time
when they get home. You knowa lot of us are working up until
five six o'clock and then when yougo home, then you have to jump
into the just the rigor of youknow, dinner because you know, all
the time and all of that goodstuff combined. But then it helps when

(08:18):
it can have a safe place likea boys and girls club to make sure
that we're checking their homework and helpingthem academically be prepared for the next day
going back to school. Right,So you know, that's program. So
I talked about people. I talkedabout program. The third area of our
strategic plan is really around our infrastructure. Okay, you know, you talk

(08:39):
about one hundred and sixty three years, right, and I could think of
our oldest facility in the city isour Southwest Boys and Girls Club that was
built back in nineteen fifty six.And then you go to our Joseph de
LaPenta Boys and Girls Club, whichis our Northwest Boys and Girls Club that
was built in nineteen sixty four.And then you can accelerate a little bit.
You have our Trinity College Boys andGirls Club, which is the first

(09:03):
college club partnership in the country,right, that was done back in nineteen
ninety eight. Oh, we're inthe forefront of some great things. This
is good. I love it whenI learned new cool things. So this
is great. Sam So in nineteenninety eight, we had that opportunity to
have on the campus a boys andgirls club with Trinity College, and then

(09:24):
in two thousand and four, Sonext year we'll be celebrating twenty years of
the Asylum Hill Boys and Girls Club. And again you think about the roots,
and I talked about Asylum Hill CongregationalChurch and then to know twenty years
ago that same church built and whenit's at the forefront of helping us build
a new boys and girls club inAsylum Hill, that's phenomenal. And then

(09:46):
back in twenty nineteen we built abrand new thirty thousand square foot boys and
girls club in the south end ofHartford. Yes, so when you say
look at all those things combined andgoing back to those older clubhouses, we
have to make sure or that allof our facilities our first class, world
class. Our kids deserve that.And so with that being said, we

(10:09):
are being very strategic in regards tomaking sure not only kids are safe,
but they're modernized. This first classin regards to the offerings, in regards
to the furnishres and fixtures in thesettings and the safe environment. That is
equably done across the city. Sowe're excited about that. But when you
also think about technology. The pandemicgave us a glaring look of where we

(10:33):
weren't proficient at. You know,as a nonprofit, our sweet spot is
youth development. But when you govirtual, what does that mean for youth
serving agencies? We're always in person, right, and we're doing activities in
person. But to make that shift, so we had to adapt and we're
going to continue to adapt, andso we have to adapt to youth.

(10:58):
How do we make them air tobe a part of the twenty first century
workforce? Right? How do weintegrate that through our programs and services and
our facility facilities, through technology,And we are making sure we're going to
be at the forefront so that duringout of school time at a boys and
girls club, it's not only asafe place, but it's a place where

(11:18):
we're really developing our young people.So their infrastructure is very important for us
in regards to the environment, right, and that will also includes you know,
transportation and as well. So that'sthe third area. You got people,
programs, You've got infrastructure. Thefourth area of our strategic plan is
really around revenue growth. Right.So you know a lot of people,

(11:43):
a lot of organizations, especially nonprofits. Some of us already know where's your
financial cliff, you know, Andso I have to say we have the
most amazing board of trustees. Whenyou think about oversight, when you think
about fiduciary responsible, when you thinkof those areas, the main area and

(12:03):
we're really prideful, is around fiscalsoundness. So when you think about you
know, the key stakeholders, thebusinesses, the corporations, the individuals that
pour into support of our organization likea boys and girls club, we have
to show a return on investment.We have to show the impact of the
support that's being done. So weknow we have to grow our revenue as

(12:26):
an organization. And I could talka little bit more as far as where's
the funding coming from. Yeah,that's right, I think later let's talk
on that. But one thing Ido want to just point out to people
is, you know, families andkids are not paying to come or it
is such a small, small,small, small, small piece of that.
And if you could just here,what is the typical child you know

(12:46):
or family paying for that child tocome and participate. That's a great question.
So for for a kid to belongduring the school year, for out
of school time during a school year. The membership fee is ten dollars,
and that's inclusive of homework help,getting a hot dinner before they go home,
participating in our sports league, flagfootball, cheerleading, basketball, soccer,

(13:11):
you name it. When you lookat our STEAM programs and you talk
about competitions or just coding classes andthings of that nature, performing arts,
I mean, I can go onand on, but it's all inclusive.
One of the founding principles of theorganization back one hundred and sixty three years
was that we wanted to keep thefees low and affordable so that no kid

(13:33):
would have a barrier in regards tocoming to an after school facility or program
like a boys and Girls club.Now, and in summer months, it's
additional fees. Where licensed summer campthe fee structure is a little bit different,
But if you really do the math, you're talking about less than two
dollars a day for a seven weekprogram. And I'll put the summer camp

(13:54):
program that a Boys and Girls clubdoes up against any summer camp experience,
but it's just that it's an experience. So you know, when you look
at the low costs, what doesit really cost for a kid to come
to a boys and Girls club,it costs about closer three thousand dollars,
which, yeah, you that's comingout of here, that's coming out you

(14:18):
know. You know what you thinkabout the annual operating every year? What
is that dollar amount? And andand and my primary charge with the Border
Trustees and my development team is tofind the resources so that we can continually
bring the fees low so that itis affordable for everyone. But it is

(14:39):
a true cost that we we wego out and fundraise actively and build relationships
that really helps us in that area. So I talked about people, I
talked about programs, I talked talkedabout infrastructure, and I talked about revenue
growth that we know we have togrow to make sure that something I go

(15:00):
back to the people. We haveto make sure that the staff part time,
a full time. We're paying livablewages, we're paying competitive salaries.
We are entrusted to have families mostprecious gift, that's their children. And
with that being said, we haveto we must be competitive and what we're

(15:22):
offering in regards to compensation and ourbenefits for all that work with the boys
and girls at work in the Boysand Girls Club. So the last area
is I'm on the edge of theseat here. So the last area of
our strategic plan really focuses on aroundmarketing and communication. You know, it's
interesting here I am sharing with youthat we've been in existence for one hundred

(15:45):
and sixty three years. The birthplaceof Boys and Girls Club, the same
place that Denzel Washington went, thesame place that Jennifer Lopez or Alex Rodriguez
all were club kids. I wasa club kid, but nevertheless I want
that same opportunity to happen. Butin order for us to show the depth,
the breath, the impact we havewith young people in our community is

(16:11):
that we have to be more willingto share. We have to share more,
whether it be through social media,whether it's me on this radio.
Kids tell the story about the impact, the why they come to a Boys
and Girls club, and then mostimportantly you'll hear from some kids that had
this experience and they'll say that theclub saved their life. You know.

(16:32):
It was a Harris pole that wasdone some time ago, and it spoke
to a survey of alumnus that wentto a Boys and Girls club, and
fifty six percent of them said thata Boys and Girls club saved their life.
Talk about return on investments, talkabout return on investment, but that's
who we are and that's the impactthat we have, and that's the commitment

(16:57):
that we have as part of ourtrategicplan is telling our story more, making
more connections, making more people awareof the impact that we're having with greater
Heartord's youth. Such an impact andso thank you so much for going through
that. That was I have tobe honest, that may have been better
than the video. And I thoughtthe video was great, so you know,

(17:18):
it's funny and I'm not that's probablywhy. No, it's great.
I'd love to talk a little bitmore. There's a couple of things,
you know, within that that fallright within that strategic plan. Exciting things
happening here, and you know oneof those is you know, really you
talked about people, and you knowdefinitely that there's a renewed focus on engaging
teens and there's the plans for fromwhat I understand, a new teen center

(17:44):
and if you could talk about that, so I guess you're hitting your people
and the infrastructure. So two ofthe bullet points there, and I'm sure
amongst others, but tell us aboutthis new project. So, as part
of our strategic plan, if youask me, Sam, what's the big
Harry audacious, audacious goal from thatstrategic plan is to build a teen center.
So what we're going to do inthe next couple of months to a

(18:07):
year, we will have one ofour sites in Harford be designated as a
teen center. It won't be calleda boys and girls club. It'll be
a teen center for thirteen to eighteenyear olds. And if you can think
about the programs and services right now, we're actively having focused groups with a

(18:29):
number of teens right now asking themwhat would you want to see when you're
out of school? What would keepyou coming back? Right? And so
some of these answers so so sosorry to interrupt that. No, no,
So you know, you think aboutthis room that we're in, we're
in a recording studio. Kids areasking for that, right you talk about

(18:49):
television and video production, performing arts. A lot of our teams are asking
for that. When you think aboutsteam, you know, you know science,
you know technology, the arts,engineering, mathematics, all those things
combine coding, robotics, legos.Kids are really asking for those types of

(19:18):
programs this list, Oh, Ican keep going right, but this is
what we're hearing for our kids.And so our job is how can we
make this become a reality. Howdo we make this a safe space for
all teams to be a part.How do we look at diversity, equity,

(19:40):
inclusivity of all of our programs thatwe offer. That's what we're doing.
When you think, most importantly,the number one thing you hear kids
talk about how your job. Buthow do we prepare young people? How
do we make connections to the corporatecommunity, the business to start to build
these pathways, whether being to healthcare, whether it be into insurance, whether

(20:02):
it be into law, and whetherit be an auto mechanic. But how
do we build these pathways that kidsare being exposed in a way they never
have been or and then taking ownershipwith it? Think about it. What
if we could use AI technology anda young person can start to map out
what their future looks like. It'sjust a different way of thinking, right,

(20:26):
But how do we have that placehere in Greater Harford to help our
young people? There are a lotof great our organizations doing great work,
and I won't see it here andsay that we do it all by ourselves.
We do partner actively with a numberof organizations that do it well,
but we've been a hub. We'vebeen that safe place. We've been a

(20:48):
beacon of hope for a lot ofyoung people. But more specifically, you'll
see that happen in the next coupleof months where we'll have a team center
here in the in Harford to reallyfocus on our team young people, which
is absolutely incredible. That is wonderfulnews, great news for the city,
great news for our community. Andyou know, one thing I do want

(21:11):
to make sure that we have timeto talk about is that corporate support.
And you've mentioned it a couple timesthroughout you know, the conversation thus far.
But it is always fantastic to seeour corporate partners, you know,
kind of step up and looking tosee what they can do to help.
And if you could share a littlebit about what that looks like, so
I can say to you that thecorporate community, the business community in Harford

(21:33):
is amazing. I second that it'sall about relationships. I have to say
to you, we pride ourselves asan organization that we want to build relationship.
We're not that type of organization that'sjust going to come and say can
you give? And we understand thetime. Talent and treasures are remarkable when

(21:56):
you think about philanthropy, right,But when you talk about corporate or business
engagement, you really want to bereally strategic and thoughtful in how you build
your relationship. And what I meanby that, you know, we look
at it from a perspective of ifyou look at our board roster at the
Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford,yes, it is an amazing roster,

(22:18):
you know. And I have tosay that as leader of the Boys and
Girls Clubs of Harford, I lookat my board as my partner in this
work. And when I look atmy partners, they're all from the business
and corporate sector, right, Andso when I think about engagement, having

(22:38):
a board member representing the majority ofthe corporations in our area is paramount.
You know, when you think aboutyou know, most people think about six
degrees a separation to get to anyone person. I don't believe in that.
I believe in a degree of separation. And so when you think about
how do you build relationships, howdo you build a nonprofit board? I

(23:03):
have a board that is amazing inregards to the relationships and the spheres of
influence that they have that's connected toour mission to help us achieve our mission.
Right. So when you have aboard with a degree of separation to
get you to any one person ofinfluence, whether it be in business or
in city government, state government,federal, whatever it may be, it

(23:26):
helps move the agenda. So boardsupport or board engagement has been amazing in
regards to building that type of relationship. The other the second piece of it
when you think about corporating business connectionsand relationships, is how do you get
employees involved? How do you getthere? We need volunteers, you know,

(23:51):
I think about the time when Iwas a club kid. I was
a club kre from eight to eighteen. I have exteen years. But what
always when I think about my experiencesand a boys and Girls club, I
think about those volunteers, those individualsthat came in and whether they helped me
with my homework, or when theycame around the holidays and I got a

(24:11):
toy that I probably couldn't afford growingup, but I got it from someone.
It was because of those business corporationrelationships that open up the door to
help me feel whole around the holidays. Right. So with that being said,
when you have people that can goback and advocate on behalf of an

(24:33):
organization, it helps with the philanthropyin regards to not only time and talent
that is being done by volunteers,but also the potential sponsorships or grants philanthropic
support to impact the mission of theorganization. And that is really the three
prong approach of how do we engage, how do we build relationships and be

(24:57):
consistent because the one thing that whenyou're working in a boys and girls club,
when you're volunteering a boys and girlsclub, a young person will look
for you day after day. That'sso true, and so when you make
that kind of commitment. It's fineto come in and volunteer one time,
but we want the secrets. Also. What we're doing is building relationships and

(25:21):
bridging the opportunities for kids to beexposed to different types of businesses and corporations
and jobs and careers, and tobe able to start to build those relationships
with volunteers who are coming into aboys and girls club and start to talk
about what are you doing at school, but what do you want to be
when you grow up and making thoseconnections is again it goes back to the

(25:45):
mission. Keeping kids first, helpingthem become productive, responsible and carrying citizens.
That's what it's all about. It'spowerful, special, and I'm sure
impactful to for the volunteers. That'sabsolutely so important. I want. The
feeling that I have is how Iam every day. I'm in my dream

(26:06):
job. I even look at thissometimes as this is my assignment in life
to be a club kid and thento be a professional of the country's first
Boys and Girls club man. Ihave the best time. I keep a
pair of sneakers in a ping pongpaddle in a trunk I keep, I
keep a poy. Hey, youknow, we really have a good time.
And those things help us build therelationships for thousands of young people that

(26:30):
walk through our doors. And nowfor those listening who may want to get
involved from volunteer standpoint, have theircompanies get involved. Where's the best place
for them to get Just go toour website www dot b AS and boy
g Is and Girls c is inClub Hartford h A R T F O
r D dot org. You cango there specifically, and that's where you

(26:53):
can find how you can become engaged. How can you learn more about our
organization. It's a special place,it definitely is. And you have a
big event coming up, which it'scrazy to say it's in January because that
sounds like it's far away, butit's really right around the corner and it
is the Youth Empowerment Alliance Luncheon.Can you share with us some of the

(27:15):
details about this event, you know? So I have to say we every
year at the Boys and Girls Clubsof Harford, the National President of Boys
and Girls Clubs of a Market Americacomes to Hartford to pay homage to those
thirty women. It's the Bark Place. It's the country's first boys and Girls
club. So Jim Clark comes hereto Harford and we usually do. This

(27:38):
will be year number thirteen for him, okay, And so we've done a
number of different activities, but thisyear we're going to do a Youth Empowerment
Alliance luncheon uniting for teen success atour South End Boys and Girls Club,
which is our newest facility, soaside from Jim, So it's going to
be a conversation and also a daywhere kids are still out of school and

(28:02):
we're targeting a number of our teenagersto be there, and so we really
want to have a panel discussion aroundthe future, jobs, engagement, our
team center and and and what doesthe future look like? Right? So
I can tell you right now wehave two confirmed guest panelists. A great

(28:22):
friend of Boys and Girls Club throughBank of America Connecticut, Joe Giani.
He actually was on the show withus, recorded with us last week.
He's a he's a great friend thefamily, his entire family have been amazing.
And then Jeff Alker from Emphasis anothergreat community partner. And so so

(28:44):
we have a couple. I won'ttease just yet because I think it might
give some pressure to them to sayyes. But nevertheless, we're looking for
a very diverse group of business leadersto be here and really talk about the
great Hartford area, youth and employmentand pathways and as such, but again

(29:04):
most importantly, just how do webecome better? So I'm really excited about
what that is going to be andwhat that is going to look like.
And yours truly will be the moderatorfor the event. Well sign me up,
Sam after today's conversation so truly incredibleand that event will you have registration
opening soon. How does that workworking? So more details will be found

(29:26):
on our website and that way youcan connect, get registered and be a
part of the conversation about our youth'sfuture. Fantastic. Yeah, so that's
we're at thirty minutes. Sam,you incredible. I wish that we had
video, just because the energy justbeams off of you when you speak about
everything you spoke about today. Sothank you so much for your commitment,

(29:48):
your energy, your excitement because it'struly transforming our community. It's all about
our kids. And I can't thankyou enough for having me as a guest
today. Of course, of course, well, thank you so much and
very excited about what's to come forthe Boys and Girls Club of Hartford.
For all the details about today's show, you can visit Pulsothregion dot com.
We would like to give a bigthank you to our show partner, Okill,

(30:11):
and of course thanks to you forlistening. I'm Kate Bauman. Go
out and make it a good dayhere in Connecticut.
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