Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware

Our History The Beginnings The origins of the Boys & Girls Clubs can be traced…

669 S. Union Street,
Wilmington, DE 19805

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669 S. Union Street,
Wilmington, DE 19805
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Our History
The Beginnings
The origins of the Boys & Girls Clubs can be traced back to the early 20th century. This was a period in history when new immigrants were struggling to adjust to differences in language and culture. People were discriminated upon based on their color and ethnicity. Poorer working parents were forced to leave children to fend for themselves in the streets and the crime rate was high. Facilities for health and personal hygiene were scarce. The need for providing children from these families with opportunities to be involved in constructive activities and grow up as responsible individuals was great.

What began as The Wilmington Community Service evolved into what is today the Boys & Girls Clubs. The Wilmington Community Service first met in 1919 with the goals of cooperating and coordinating the activities of existing community service agencies. Mrs. Coleman DuPont, President of WCS, said, “We owe every child a chance to play in a safe and happy environment.” The organization aimed to promote playgrounds for ‘wholesome recreation’ that included promoting ‘health, safety and character.’

At a meeting held on June 20, 1919, in the Board Rooms of the Board of Education, City & County Building, Harold Keats, the Executive Officer said that it was “not the purpose of Community Service to combat any particular philosophy of life or of government but to remain untrammeled by political or factional difficulties.” At this meeting it was decided to invite the representatives of local service agencies both public and semi-public to monthly suppers. It was also agreed to enlarge the personnel of the Community Service Committee by inviting representatives of racial groups to become members. George B. Miller was Chairman in the Chair.

Initial discussions were about undertaking projects related to culture, sports and health. For example, their plans included organizing ‘Community sings’ at the Wilmington High School each week; authorizing the department of athletics to hold an international track meet in connection with the Delaware State Fair on Labor Day; and bringing out a bulletin that would publicize their activities and be mailed to prominent local businessmen and professionals.

An important project undertaken was to conduct a health survey with the assistance of physicians. In July 1919, a copy of the report and recommendation on bathing facilities was completed and submitted. The report mentioned that “a large section of the older portions of Wilmington are without proper bathing facilities.” It highlighted areas of Wilmington where 95% of the houses had no tubs and some that had no running water and recommended that at least two bathhouses one for the Whites and the other in the ‘negro district’ with an average of 75 showers each, be constructed. This would take care of the needs of about 800-1400 people a day and cost about $85,000.

Many local patrons made generous offers to the community. For example, Mrs. T. Coleman duPont turned over the swimming pool of her at her house on Broome Street and the grounds and pool at her country place, “The Mill” to be used by the department of social recreation for working girls and those from business offices; Mr. Howard P. Scarber provided club rooms for the 11thstreet Neighborhood Club; Mr.Kappeau donated a piano to be used at the club rooms at the 13th and Heald Streets.

A War Camp Community Service Committee was organized to cooperate with the state and city committees to welcome the returned soldiers. They also established a travelers’ assistance service at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station to direct people to hotels, help them with the baggage and tickets, and to assist them in locating friends, etc. They particularly focused on assisting women and children.

At the October 26, 1924 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Wilmington Community Service, a committee consisting of Judge Nields, Chairman, Judge Prickett and Mr. John P. Root, Executive Secretary, was set up to draw up the constitution for the organization. The committee submitted a copy of the proposed constitution on April 2, 1925. A motion to send a copy to members of the Board for input before final adoption passed. The constitution was adopted on May 26, 1925.

According to the 1944-45 Annual Report: “The Boys’ Club of Wilmington began its work in the fall of 1926 when the third floor of the Queen Theatre building on Market Street was rented and made into recreation rooms for boys. C.B. Root was in charge. The project was sponsored by (the) Community Service. In December of 1927, the space was enlarged to include the fourth floor of the same building. By this time over 500 boys were members. The officers of the organization were: Mrs. Coleman duPont, President; Honorable John P. Nields, Chairman; and D.C. Aspril, Treasurer.”

In March, 1928, the offer made by the Boys’ Club Federation of America to provide a member of their staff to make a study of Wilmington to explore possibilities of a location for a permanent Boys’ Club headquarters was accepted. Accordingly, Mr. C.J. Atkinson, Executive Secretary of the Boys’ Club Federation of America, addressed the Board of Directors of the Community Service and informed them of the scope of work carried out by the organization. He encouraged the Community Service to expand the activities of the Boys’ Club work conducted on the third and fourth floors of the Queen Theatre Building in Wilmington. In September 1928, the Boys’ Club enrollment was 450. A total of 1592 children had enrolled in the various activities including Summer Playgrounds, Ukulele classes in public schools and sports activities.

In the fall of 1931, the Wilmington Community Service incorporated as the Boys’ Club of Wilmington, Delaware, and in December of 1932 moved to the old Bethany Baptist Church at Jackson and Elm Streets. The building was purchased and necessary alterations carried out through the leadership of the following friends: Mrs. P.S. duPont, Clarence Fraim, Donald P. Ross, F.H. Thomas, S.M. Dillon, Hon. J.P. Nields, Mr. & Mrs. F.G. Tallman, George B. Miller, and Mrs. Coleman duPont.

The Boys’ Club was perceived as a ‘continuation school’ and aimed to promote the welfare of boys and to provide them with opportunities for positive growth. An increase in the time spent at the club meant that the children spent less time in destructive gang activities. The Club reported in 1935 that in the neighborhood of the Club “a decrease in street disturbances such as breaking milk bottles, tearing down fences, breaking windows, etc.” were reported. Vocational training in activities such as woodwork and typewriting had been instrumental in securing employment for some members. A large percentage of the Club members came from poorer homes, had single parents, were orphans or were from broken homes.

Clarence Fraim, became the new President in 1935. The work done by the Hon. John P. Nields was appreciated. He retired after many years of devoted service to the Club. His ‘wise counsel and personal supervision of the projects, affairs and general conduct of the Wilmington Boys’ Club’ were lauded.

From the beginning, The Club realized the importance of getting good publicity in the local and national media. In 1936, the organization conducted an extensive publicity campaign. The final report by the publicity committee states that the Club activities were widely publicized in newspapers, radio programs, pamphlets, posters and other forms of publicity.

C.B. Root, then director of the Club, reported that during the year 1937-1938, the Club Building at Elm and Jackson Streets was used by 2,528 boys and young men aged 4 to over 21 years. In June 1938, the Directors approved building a swimming pool. It was also recommended that a dental clinic needed to be established as 85 percent of the membership had poor dental health. This appeared to be a need that had been articulated earlier.

The War Years (1941-1945)
The Club building was used as a casualty center, emergency feeding station, and immunization clinic and the summer camp was designated as an evacuation center. Members were educated in air raid precautions; model construction classes made airplanes, boats, ships, tanks, and trucks. Newsletters were sent to Servicemen to keep them up to date on local and club news and service kits (package of games for leisure time) were sent to men in Service. The camp programs included instruction on swimming and life saving, use of small arms ( approved by Director of Civilian marksmanship), and physical conditioning activities. Mr. Clarence Fraim represented the Club at the War Fund Board.

During this period, Dr. Alfred Kamm was the Executive Director. He reported that during the war years, “we find that expansion which seemed impossible in peace time was achieved in the war years, e.g.: branch clubs were opened in the George Gray School and Pierre S. du Pont High School. The Kiwanis Recreation Leadership Institute was established and the Summer Play Center at our main club was started. All these expansions came during a time when many agencies had to reduce their programs and some even closed for the duration.” Arts and crafts were learned by about 300 children and sports activities remained popular. Membership for 1944-45 at the Main Club was 678. “The war years have seen a steady drop in the enrollment. However, we have really had more boys in the club and the camp than we should have tried to handle during these difficult times.” “The third year of our Summer Play Center was the biggest we have ever had. The total enrollment was 567 out of which 231 were girls and 336 were boys. This included children from 4 to 14 years. “

“The summary of War Services performed by our club makes a long list. It is a record of which we may all be proud. This record helps to prove what good can come of the energy of our young people if supervision, guidance and activities are provided. A Certificate of Commendation issued by the Second Service Command headquarters has been awarded to the club for this exceptional record of service.”

After War Years
In 1947, Mr. Dwight B. Early became Executive Director, following Dr. Alfred Kamm’s leadership in that position. At a meeting of the Executive Committee on January 17, 1944, it was decided that the title of “Executive Director” would be adopted in order to eliminate the great variety of titles that had been used until then.Mr. Early served until November 19, 1948. A former staff, Mrs. Victor Caille, was employed as Acting Executive Director, on a temporary basis starting 22 November. At the meeting on February 24, 1949, Mr. Clarence K. Xander, the new Executive Director was introduced.In 1949, the H. Fletcher Brown Club opened at 17th and Church Streets. Mr. Xander expressed the need of starting a fine arts department, a music appreciation program and some form of dramatics-an increase in cultural activities.

The Club has instituted many awards over the years. For example, The IBM Club, wrote on Feb 15, 1954 that they would present an award to the outstanding boy of the year. The award was a week-end trip for the boy and a chaperone to New York City. Tallman in a letter dated May 19, 1958, gifted 100 shares of duPont Common Stock to establish the Tallman Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships to “worthy boys from Wilmington and its suburbs who seek to carry on their education further after graduating from high school.”

Club membership that was 833 in 1935, rose to 1,847 by 1957. In 1964, and to 1,899 in 1964.

Mr. Xander retired on December 31, 1968. Clarence K. Xander was succeeded by Joseph H. Dulin as executive director. Xander, known to club members and others as “K” was retained “as a consultant and adviser to serve through the construction of the Clarence Fraim Boys’ Club at S. Union and Berry Sts., its dedication at the end of next year and the organization of its program. During Xander’s tenure, the club membership rose from 100 to 2,000 and the annual budget rose from $41,000 to $135,000.

In 1971, changing attendance patterns were noted. At the Jackson Street Club 85 to 90 percent of the members were African American in the spring but during the fall about 50 percent of the members attending were White. There was also an increase in the number of Spanish speaking boys joining the club. In 1972, the Clarence Fraim Senior Center was opened.

On December 5, 1977 a non-discrimination policy was passed to not exclude girls from becoming members. This was a response to a request by United Way to reaffirm the nondiscrimination policy.

Summer Camps
Summer Camps began in 1928 and were held at the old National Guard Rifle Range near New Castle. In 1930, the club purchased 65 acres of land near Marshallton located about eight miles from the headquarters. Alfred Kamm, said in his 1945-46 report that the camp was called Camp Mattahoon, “after the Indian Chief from whom, it is said, the early settlers bought land which is now part of Wilmington.” Camp activities included craft shop, games and sports, woodcraft and nature, and riflery. Special events including camp fire programs and sports contests. “When it comes to fun, health building, self-development, learning of skills, knowledge and habits, there is nothing better than camping for a boy. More good guidance in behavior and attitudes can be offered a boy in two weeks of camping under proper leadership, than in practically a whole club season,” Kamm said in 1945-46 report.

In 1955, Camp Mattahoon received a gift of 95 acres of adjoining land from S. Hallock duPont. This increased the Camp area to 160 acres. Over the years the camp facilities were enhanced and many new programs included. However, there were also many problems at the Camp. For example, there was a polio outbreak in 1947. At the quarterly meeting of the board of directors held on October 28, 1947, Mr. Early announced that a clinic was to be set up at camp in summer 1948. The health authorities had advised that they had in no way found the camp responsible for the polio outbreak. The camp also experienced financial difficulties and after many decades of constructive activities, it was decided to sell the camp property in the late 1970s. The property was sold in parts and all property sold in 1980. The camp foreclosure was in 1982.

The organization expanded in the 1980s by opening the New Castle Club in the Rose Hill Community Center in 1982, andthe Claymont Club in the Claymont Community Center in 1986. The Boys’ Club of Wilmington became the Boys’ Clubs of Delaware in 1989.
The Boys’ Club kept up with the times and computerized their operations. In an April 30, 1987 report, the following has been recorded that the Boys’ Clubs of America was impressed by the kind of computer programs the Boys’ Club of Delaware had and asked them to conduct a day-long workshop at the National Conference on how to computerize their operation. Twenty-seven people attended the workshop.

The organization appears to have been constantly open to new ideas for fund raising and increasing community contributions and introducing new ideas into the Club. The Club has a long-time and well-established relationship with the United Community Fund and Wilmington Kiwanis Club.

The success behind the organization can to a large part be attributed to the generous time and assistance given by various people in the community. Many of the board members and officers served for decades in the organization. For example, Mrs. Coleman duPont and Mrs. Pierre S. duPont played a key role for many years especially in the formative years. Maurice DuPont Lee passed away on Jan 2, 1974. He was on the Board of Directors since February 24, 1949. Harry W. Lunger, member since Feb 24, 1949, continued through April 22, 1965 when he was elected honorary member. Geoffrey S. Garstin-member from Feb 25, 1958 until his passing on Aug 26, 1976.

Joe Dulin retired in January, 1990. George Krupanski who was serving as Northeast Regional Director for Boys Clubs of America was hired as the Executive Director. When George Krupanski became Executive Director , he said that the work done by the club touched the lives of thousands of young people and that this work was worth doing. Under his leadership, the organization has expanded and grown considerably.

Starting in 1990, all the Clubs’ facilities were open to girls as well and in 1992, the organization acquired it’s current name: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware. A number of clubs and extensions were opened throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s including one in the Dover Air Force Base. Today there are over 40 locations covering all counties of Delaware. More than 20,000 boys and girls participate in various activities of the clubs.

Even though times have changed problems of poverty, crime and drop-out rates continue to exist. Currently the membership consists of about 51 percent African Americans, 40 percent Whites and 8 or 9 percent Hispanics. Three of the clubs are located in public housing developments where 60 percent of the children come from single-parent families, most come from an under $20,000 a year income households. The Greater Newark Boys & Girls Club opened in 1994 is located in an area where the average income is $12,000, the high school drop out rate is 60 percent, there are 3,000 children within a one-mile radius and there are problems of crime and teen pregnancy. The Greater Newark Club has a game room equipped with video games, table tennis and interaction games, an arts and crafts room, and other facilities. The existence of the club has made a positive difference to the quality of life in the neighborhood by creating a sense of pride in the residents and reducing the crime rates.

The activities of the Clubs are wide-ranging. The educational and career development programs include tutoring and dropout prevention programs aimed at enabling youth to gain basic education, career development and familiarity with computer and other technologies. Members receive help with homework and tutoring via the Power Hour program. The Computer Assisted Tutorial Program (CCC) pre-tests and post tests each participant and places him or her on the appropriate grade level. Educational games include contests such as the spelling bee. Club libraries aim to cultivate a taste for better literature; provide access to reference books to assist in schoolwork and encourage reading.

Programs geared toward health and life skills are meant to inculcate positive behaviors and achieve success in life. Specific programs include SMART Moves aimed to prevent drug and alcohol use and delay the onset of sexual activity, Act SMART was launched to prevent HIV and Smoke Screamers is a tobacco prevention program. Teen Centers are areas where 12-19 year old members can socialize, watch TV, or use any of the other facilities at clubs such as the fitness area or the pool table.

Sports, fitness and recreation facilities are very popular among the club members. The facilities include, varsity teams and intramural leagues, judo, karate, weightlifting and archery as well as informal activities such as dodgeball and relay races. Structured swim programs and special activities such as Water Carnivals and Family Night are offered each month in pool areas.

The arts and cultural enrichment programs help develop creativity and nurture an appreciation of the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing. Members are taught painting, drawing, collage, computer art and other arts. The children participate in national competitions.

Boys & Girls Clubs members have won numerous awards in local, state and national contests in all areas of activities.

There are numerous summer programs and many of these involve taking a trip to area amusements such as the Dover Air Force Base, Washington, DC, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Philadelphia Zoo and area parks.

The Boys & Girls Clubs is a non-profit organization and has a budget of $12 million with 30 percent of funding from the Government, 35 percent from membership fees, dues and revenues, and 30 percent from fundraising, contributions, donations and events. The rest comes from miscellaneous sources.

The Organization started in a small way but in the last 75 years has grown in one of the most important institutions in Delaware.




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