Since its very beginning, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County has been about helping children help themselves. This concept has not changed in 50 years, but has evolved with the passing of the years as the torch was handed down from one generation to the next.
When the Board of Directors of the Boys Club of Richmond met for the first time Boys Club of Richmond in early June of 1957, it was with a clear mission in mind – helping the young men of Richmond find a healthier way of life.
That nine-member group met at what was then Fire Station 4 at the corner of South 9th and "E” Streets. In that meeting, Ray Smith, Earl Mayer, Troy Woolf, Don McBride, Lester Williams, Harvey Therrien, Guy Alexander, Police Chief Dan Mitrione and Sheriff Edward Cordell laid the foundation for what the club has become today.
Other Board members, many of whom are no longer with us, have served the club diligently through the years. Those individuals include Hector Vioni, Joe Barker, Robert W. Rosa, Harry Hoff, Stanley Gehr, Richard Barth, Marion Coulter and Gus Hoelscher.
They named Jim Rendel from Earlham College as the group’s first Executive Director, envisioning a facility that would serve 150 boys from Richmond. But within four years, the club had grown from the original four members to more than 200. Clearly they were bursting at the seams and something needed to be done .The Board of Directors began looking at options that would help the club serve the growing number of interested boys.
During this time, while a new building drive was in its infancy stages, Board President Guy Alexander struck a deal with a business acquaintance to purchase 169 acres of land near Connersville. With lots of open space and the Whitewater River running through it, the property was transformed into a camp for boys. The organization quickly named the space "Camp Guy” in honor of its donor. Summer Camp activities are now held at this multi-acre complex.
But the need for a bigger space to use in the fall and winter months still existed and Rendel and company took their case to the public in late 1962. Their goal – to raise $75,000 to construct a new building on South 8th and "N” Streets. Ground was broken on the new facility on April 7, 1963 with Judge G.H. Hoelscher and Mayor Roland Cutter doing the honors. The doors opened on the new facility the following year, and the number of boys attending the new Boys Club of Richmond quickly tripled to more than 600 youngsters.
The same year, Rendel left Richmond to take a job in Terre Haute and West Virginia native John Brzuzy became the organization’s second Executive Director. As the Executive Director of the Boys Club from August 1964 until January 1993, John played an instrumental role in the development of the club into its current form. John remained with the club as Executive Director until 1993 when illness forced him to retire. We at the Boys & Girls Clubs feel a lot of that credit has to go to John. Without his 30 years of service to the city of Richmond, the club would not be enjoying the success it is today.
Six years later, spurred by a $12,000 donation from Mr. and Mrs. E. Harrison Scott Jr., another capital campaign was completed during the tenure of Board President James R. Daggy. The existing building was added onto and the name was officially changed to the Scott Boys Club of Richmond on Nov. 6, 1969. As the club, the city of Richmond and indeed the entire country were moving forward in the 70s and 80s, there was a push by many to change the charter of the club to include girls as well as boys.There were many problems, however, not the least of which was the recurring problem of space limitations. There were also some who preferred keeping the club a male-only atmosphere.But the club indeed moved forward under the direction of its third executive director, Bruce Daggy, who took over the reins of the organization in March 1993 and is still at the head of the organization.
In 1999, the organization officially opened the Boys & Girls Club at Central, an off-site unit located at Central United Methodist Church on E. Main Street. The addition of this unit allowed girls to become involved with the club for the first time. A year later – the Board voted on Sept. 25 and the official Secretary of State amendment was on Oct. 30 – the official name of the organization was changed to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County, Indiana, Inc., reflecting the club’s willingness to serve children of both sexes in not just Richmond, but the entire county. It also stressed the fact that the club now had more than just the one location.
With the increasing number of girls added to our membership, we found ourselves once again at a cross road and in need of a larger facility. After more than 450 donors pledged funds for the new building, from individuals to corporations to foundations, the club’s original campaign goal was not only met, but exceeded its goal. The generous $500,000 contribution from Richard E. Jeffers helped complete the campaign and ensured the future of the youth of Wayne County. The construction of our new $3.1 million Richard E. Jeffers Unit opened in December 2003. Situated on a 7.5 acre property, this 32,823- square foot facility enables our organization to serve year-round, over 1500 youth annually.
In 2009, the Fairview Unit opened at Fairview Elementary School, serving more than 150 youth after school. With the demand for services through out Wayne County, in 2010 the Hagerstown Unit was opened in Hagerstown Elementary School. The Boys & Girls Clubs has now grown into a youth development powerhouse, serving more than 2500 youth annually throughout Wayne County at four Units and at Camp Guy. We continue to open doors for youth. We can truly say, Great Futures Start Here!