People often ask how Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club “inspires and enables all young people to realize their potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens and community leaders of tomorrow.” The answer is as complex as childhood, itself. Afterall, there are so many ways to interpret what it means to be “productive, responsible, caring and a leader” … and there are even more ways in which to accomplish these feats.
The process of growing up is not linear; it is not one or two lessons that make a person who they eventually come to be. Rather it is the collection of experiences and the presence of various role models that shape children on their unique journeys toward adulthood. With this sentiment in mind, our Club provides a wide range of experiences and positive relationships to help children learn, grow, and flourish. Indeed, our programmatic framework is based on five core areas that allow children to explore their interests, build their confidence, and develop a sense of belonging and community. These are: Character & Leadership Development, Education & Career Development, Health and Life Skills, The Arts, and Sports, Fitness and Recreation.
Oftentimes these core areas are evident through formal programs. But sometimes these values are best imparted when they are woven into simple, seemingly everyday experiences. That’s what happened on Friday, February 5th. On a sunny afternoon between snowstorms, our staff at our Bayville K-5 site felt that it was a wonderful day for a stroll along the Sound. As the weather was sunny and mild, the kids were excited to be near the water to explore and enjoy the fresh air. As they walked along the shoreline, Club staff helped the kids identify interesting objects like shells, sea glass, and fish bones.
Beyond the natural beauty, the kids also observed garbage and debris strewn about. Our staff took this opportunity to discuss the environment and how each person has a responsibility for caring for their surroundings… not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all. The kids immediately latched on to the idea of a beach clean-up! When they had done all they could do before the sun went down, one child, Kawaun, remarked that cleaning up was not only important and productive, but also a rewarding way to “hang out with my best buds.”
What I love about a story like this is that it may seem ordinary — children enjoying time with friends, skipping rocks, and cleaning up the beach. But this experience was so much more than kids exploring the great outdoors; it was science, community service, social interactions, and physical exercise all intertwined. In this way, the story of an afternoon outing is quite extraordinary.
Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Rhodes
Melissa Rhodes joined Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club when she was just 8 years old. Little did she know then that belonging to the Club would come to define her life in so many ways. In fact, Melissa and her brother Rich belonged to the Club through their formative years. Melissa stayed active through middle school and high school, getting involved with Torch and Keystone Clubs, and later going on to become a summer camp CIT/Counselor (even through her college years.)
When she was in the 10th grade, the Club profiled her in its 1994 Annual Appeal Brochure. At that time, she shared that her life goal was to “be able to raise a family with an awareness of the issues facing youth in 2000 and beyond.”
Today, these many years later, Melissa has done just that as she now serves Grenville Baker’s Director of Programs and Professional Development. As a lead architect of the Club’s many enriching, engaging and educational programs, Melissa is indeed ensuring that our whole family of 1200+ youths not only understand the issues of the 2000s, but also comprehend that they have bright futures!
Indeed, Melissa has spent 20 years in the Boys & Girls Club movement, serving in leadership roles both regionally and nationally. When asked why she has dedicated her life to the Boys & Girls Club she remarks, “The Club meant so much to me and my brother Rich when we were young. Our parents were separated, so my mother was essentially a single parent. The Club was initially our caregiver, but it quickly became so much more.”
Indeed, Melissa’s own memories not only capture the long-standing traditions of the Club, but also influence how she shapes the future for our kids. Among her favorite memories was becoming a member of the Club’s Drama program in which the kids would put on two to three plays a year for the membership and families. She notes that the rehearsals and performances helped her overcome her shyness and “come out of her shell.” It’s not surprising that our Club offers a variety of performing arts opportunities today! Melissa also served as the President of the Torch and Keystone Clubs in her day, which she credits for helping her to develop strong leadership skills and commitment to community service.
All these years later, Melissa has come full circle: serving kids just like her, in the very same community, at the very same Club. She adds, “I always say that there is “magic” that happens at our Club. What a better way to pay it forward and make a living at the same time than by helping to perpetuate that magic? It is an honor to be back at the organization that I started my career at 20 years ago.”
Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is pleased to announce new positions to its Board of Directors. John Campbell has been elected to the position of President of the Board. The Club is also pleased to welcome Natalia Good and Sean Simensky to its Board.
John Campbell will serve as Board President for 2021. John became involved in the Club began when his children were members, more than 15 years ago. From there, his passion for Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club and its role in “inspiring youth the realize their full potential” grew. Over the years, John has served as President of the Board (from 2011-2014), as a Youth of the Year Judge, and on the Executive, Operations, and Golf Committees. In his professional life, he is a Senior Vice President- Investments at UBS Financial Services in Jericho, NY.
John Campbell remarks, “My involvement at the Club has been a blessing for me and time well spent. For all that I have given, I have received so much more. I have been privileged to see the inside story on all the Club does for the children of this community.”
Erick Brook has been named President-Elect for 2021 in preparation for leading the board in 2022. Eric is also the current Treasurer and serves on the Executive and Golf Committees.
Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is also delighted to welcome new Board members Natalia Good and Sean Simensky.
Natalia P. Good, an attorney and graduate of Fordham Law School, is a veteran volunteer of Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club. She started volunteering as a tutor and then went on to serve on the Gala, Youth of the Year Selection, and Operations & Safety Committees. Beyond her commitment with the Club, Natalia is also involved in the UJA Long Island Women’s Cabinet, conducts interviews for Duke University’s Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee, and has served in various fundraising capacities for several local nonprofits. She currently resides in Locust Valley with her husband Adam and their two children.
Sean N. Simensky also joins our Board this year. An alumnus of the Club, he understands deeply the work we do and, in fact, he and his family have been dedicated volunteers and supporters for many years. Most recently, Sean has served on our Gala and Operations & Safety Committees. In his professional life, Sean is an associate at Rivkin Radler in the firm’s Banking and Corporate Practice Groups and concentrates his practice on general corporate representation of private national and international companies, not-for-profit corporations, as well as representing financial institutions, private lenders and borrowers in loan transactions. In 2019, Sean was honored by Long Island Business News as a “30 Under 30” award recipient.
Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is delighted to have been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Joy in Childhood Foundation to help enhance its afterschool healthy snacks program. We are very grateful for this gift as we know that good nutrition is integral to children’s well–being and helps them stay on track to reach their full potential.
Thanks to the owners of Dunkin’ Donuts in Bethpage, Louis Brienza and Bruce Carusi, the Club was recommended to the foundation for consideration. The mission of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation is to bring joy to kids battling hunger or illness. Kari McHugh, Executive Director of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation remarks, “We are so proud to support Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club with a grant to help provide healthy snacks to kids in the Locust Valley area.”
Indeed, this grant is a wonderful contribution to our afterschool program as we provide daily snacks for approximately 200 kids a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year. As children come to the Club directly from school, they arrive hungry for a nutritional boost. This grant will supplement the Club’s existing snack program, allowing us to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and string cheese so that kids have the energy to get their homework done, take part in activities, and have fun.
For many of us, the Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of holiday shopping season. Indeed, the bargains begin before the last piece of pie is served! This year, we hope that you will keep the Club and our kids in mind as the holiday spirit takes hold. Here are a few ways to give back while getting a great deal.
For something utterly unique, consider a hand-crafted gift made by one of our Club kids. During this season of giving and celebration, our tweens are reminding us how blessed we are here in Locust Valley through their Torch Club Holiday Art Sale.
Through Torch Club, our leadership and community outreach program for children in grades 6-8, our kids have developed a strong sense of appreciation for and a desire to give thanks for their families and their Club. Indeed, at a young age, they are learning to plan and participate in worthwhile community service projects. This holiday season they are lending their artistic talents and organizing an Art Sale to raise funds for children in need.
If you’re an Amazon shopper, please consider signing up for the Amazon Smile program, which donates .5% of your purchases to the charity of your choice at no cost to you. To sign up, visit smile.amazon.com and follow the simple instructions to choose “Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club” as your beneficiary.
Likewise, if you find yourself at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, we are delighted to share that Neiman Marcus is once again supporting the Club with a second national holiday fundraiser that will run through December 31, 2020. Specifically, Neiman Marcus customers can donate to Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club while checking out in the store and online.
There are few things that children look forward to more than a day dedicated to candy, costumes, and spooky stories. This year, to ensure safety, our creative staff and Keystone teens transformed our customary Spook Alley event into a haunted house on wheels, which traveled to each of our afterschool sites on October 30th.
Leading up to the event, our Keystone Club teens decorated a Grenville Baker bus in various Halloween motifs and stuffed individual trick-or-treat goody bags for the children in our afterschool program. Children boarded the Haunted Bus one at a time to collect their treats. The trick, of course, was that a friendly-spirited “scare” awaited our candy gatherers as masked teens jumped out from behind the seats. Children exited the bus, treats in hand, to be greeted by Michelle Gallucci, our Bayville Site director, who was dressed up as a T-Rex.
To round out the afternoon, we organized games and activities, including pumpkin design contests, cookie decorating, and a costume competition. Prizes went to Best Costume, Most Original, Funniest, and Scariest. G.Willikers of Locust Valley generously donated $10 gift cards to all of the winners!
Other supporters of this wonderful event included the Changemakers Interfaith Group, a group of students from Syosset High School, that donated Halloween goody bags to the kids at LV Reformed Church and Lou Brienza of Dunkin’ in Bethpage, who donated doughnuts and Munchkins for the kids to enjoy.
The day was frightfully fun!
Part of the joy of being a teenager is that one’s sense of growing curiosity starts to align with one’s ability to be more independent. At the Club, we recognize that as young people move toward adulthood, they benefit from new experiences that help them develop skills, confidence, and autonomy.
One program that focuses on broadening the horizons for youth is our “City Club.” In past years, our Teen Director Stephanie Urio has led trips to New York City once a month to allow teens to see and experience museums, theater, historical sites, and cultural events, many for the first time. Each adventure is designed to offer teens a glimpse of the bigger world and all it has to offer them. Ultimately, the trips inspire them to dream of a career or develop a new passion or creative interest.
With the onset of COVID 19, we had to rethink our program. Knowing that this has been a difficult time for our teens, with many of the rites of passage for this group altered or completely cancelled, our staff did not want to give up on our wonderful City Club program. Instead, Stephanie took the initiative to adjust and to adapt to the challenges of 2020. So instead of City Club trips, this fall, the members will be participating in our “Out of City” Club trips on a monthly basis – focusing on all Long Island has to offer.
The first “Out of City” Club outing was a fishing trip out of Captree State Park. Fighting their preference for sleeping late on a Saturday, eight teens rose with the sun on September 8th to board a boat on the south shore and go fishing! For many of our members, this was their first experience fishing. Our staff and the crew showed the kids how to bait their hooks and how to cast… and encourage the kids to have patience. It was a beautiful day out on the water and the kids started a friendly competition to see who could catch the most fish. Senior Joe Valli’s patience paid off with the winning tally of five.
While it doesn’t look like any of the members will become fishermen, they were thankful for the opportunity to try something new and experience a Long Island tradition!
Experiential learning is just more fun! With some of our area schools operating in hybrid or modified formats, many children are spending significant time trying to learn sitting at a computer screen in a remote environment. At the Club, we know that “Zoom Time” can turn into “Zoned Out” time, so we are taking every opportunity to give kids the chance to benefit from in-person and interactive learning experiences at our after-school programs.
Every Wednesday, our members have the chance to join in on our famous “Kids in the Kitchen” program, where they learn basic measurements
skills while learning about dry and wet ingredients. (Just like parents sneak vegetables into chicken nuggets… we sneak in a little mathematics into our cooking fun). The kids were delighted with the first project of the season: making Rice Krispies treats with a spooky twist for Halloween.
Sometimes combining games and learning can be just the ticket: the sense of a little competition makes learning more fun. For kids in Kindergarten through Second grade, our K-5 Youth Development Director Carlos Pumar added a little competitive spirit for completing math worksheets. All the kids who correctly completed their math worksheets earned three tickets to “spend” at our “recognition store,” where kids can trade in tickets for novelty prizes and games. Kids with incorrect answers were given the extra help they needed to learn the concepts and get their tickets, too.
Whether its math or reading, the Club always finds a way to connect with kids and make learning fun.
Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club
Locust Valley, NY 11560
Programs: 516-676-1460 Administration: 516-759-5437
Tax ID Number: 11-1660855
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To inspire and enable all young people to realize their potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens and community leaders of tomorrow.
GBBGC is a 501(c)3 Charitable Nonprofit Organization.