HISTORY OF THE CLUB
In 2008, the Boys & Girls Club celebrated 100 years of hope, community and helping children. Begun as a ladies church project in 1908, with Mrs. Carlyle F. Barnes as its first President, the Club existed in several downtown locations before building its own facility on Laurel Street. At that same time, Mary Peck appealed to her father, Bristol Saving Bank President Miles Lewis Peck, to fund an equivalent Club House for girls. Mr. Peck donated $50,000 to the effort, and the Girls Club facility on Upson Street opened shortly thereafter. Local industrialist Edward Ingraham became President in 1923, a post he held for decades, as well as seeing service on the national Boys & Girls Club of America board of directors. In 1921, a Women’s Auxiliary was formed to “assist the superintendent in the numerous ways in which women could be helpful.” In 1923, the Older Members Association was formed. Both the Women’s Keystone Auxiliary and the OM’s have provided immeasurable financial and volunteer support to the Club over the last 80 years.
Memberships climbed at both Clubs in the ensuing decades as boys enjoyed various recreational activities and girls learned culinary and sewing skills among other activities. The addition of the Forestville Boys Club in 1952 and Camp Wangum in Salisbury added to the Club experience for the boys, while a major fund drive was undertaken in the early 1960s to add the pool and gymnasium at the Girls Club facility. As times changed, both clubs shifted their missions to serve both boys and girls. IN 1995, the Boys & Girls Club opened the Cambridge Park Outreach Unit and the Family Center began a fund drive to build the Imagine Nation Children’s Museum, which opened in 2004, and recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.