Boys clubs had humble 1860 beginnings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2001

An effort in 1860 to get unsupervised children off the streets in Hartford, Conn., grew into a mighty force for changing lives that stretches across each state in America today.

A small group of Hartford women banded together more than 140 years ago to provide alternate activities for youngsters who were feared likely to get into trouble on the streets.

That was the beginning of what today is known as Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a chapter of which soon could be established in Natchez.

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By 1906 there were enough clubs in the country to form a federation. They did so, becoming then the 53-member Federated Boys Clubs. In 1931, the name changed to Boys Clubs of America.

The Boys Clubs organization received congressional recognition in 1956, when it was given a U.S. charter.

Many years later – and many success stories behind them – the organization changed its name to Boys and Girls Clubs of America. That was in 1990, when officials on the national level decided it was time to recognize the mission among young girls as well as boys.

The mission has changed little since the Hartford women planted the seed. In essence, it is to &uot;inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens,&uot; the club Web site states.

Nationwide there are about 2,600 clubs. They employ 11,000 full-time employees who are trained to work with young people.

The clubs have caught the eye and won the support of many of the country’s largest and most influential corporations, such as JC Penney, Allstate Foundation, Coca-Cola Company and Taco Bell.

In recent weeks, the Penney company has helped the organization to launch a newsletter for parents that focuses on after-school learning activities, &uot;Learn and Live.&uot;

The first issue, published June 1, addresses the issue of the summertime learning gap and provides ways parents can help to bridge the time between school years.

More information on the clubs is available on the Internet at