We had the opportunity to sit down with John Farley, Resource Development Coordinator of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. We were absolutely amazed by the history, passion and impact of this organization. We were inspired by the important work they do and were left with a deep sense of pride for our community. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia is a wonderful example of just how much Philly Cares! We hope you are as inspired by his words as we were 🙂
How did The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia start?
Our legacy began in Philadelphia in 1887 at our Germantown Club. Since then, we have been providing kids with a safe place to learn and grow, teaching them to cultivate relationships with caring adults and engaging them in programs that inspire them to be the best they can be. 127 years later, our mission has developed to include new experiences our children won’t find anywhere else: healthy lifestyle programs, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning opportunities, cultural trips to the plethora of museums throughout the city, sport clinics with our city’s professional athletes, and so much more!
How did your organization grow and expand?
As the need for youth programming in Philadelphia grew and social norms evolved, the original Boys Club began to serve girls (Nicetown Club, 1892) and African American youth (Wissahickon Club, 1896). Today we serve thousands of kids throughout the city of Philadelphia at our 12 Clubs and one extension site, providing them with a much needed support system to help them pursue their dreams.
Any other historical information we should know?
Our Germantown, Wissahickon, and Nicetown locations are three of the original Clubs that were part of the founding of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America more than 100 years ago. While much has changed since we first began, one thing remains constant: a positive place for kids.
What services do you provide?
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Our programs range from literacy and STEM education programs, career and college planning, leadership development, healthy habits, cultural and art experiences, to sports and recreation activities—creating a balance and a positive outlet for many youth who are surrounded by negative influences each day. Many of our club kids do not have access to internet or even computers in their home; our clubs give provide our club kids access to technology to prepare them for 21st century success.
Most recently we partnered with Samsung to create a Tween Tech Lounge at our Bridesburg Boys & Girls Club outfitted with Samsung Galaxy Tablets, Laptops and a SMART TV—all of which are loaded with educational tools to assist with literacy and STEM learning goals while also giving kids access to technology they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to explore.
What is the best part about being involved in this organization?
Being involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia is truly an investment in the future of our city. By ensuring the youth of today are well equipped for tomorrow we can rest assured Philadelphia is in good hands. Volunteers, Staff and generous supporters alike are backbone of the organization—supporting and inspiring our kids to achieve the great future they deserve. The most rewarding part of being involved with our organization is when you see the direct impact our Club/your interaction has on a child’s life.
How does the The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia operate?
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia has twelve club sites throughout the city, serving some of the most underprivileged children throughout the city. The metro office handles the large scale fundraising and development work while each individual club works daily to provide educational and personal support for each kid who walks through our door.
Do you have any particular success stories you would like to share?
Every day in our clubs we have triumphs with making a difference to some of the most disadvantaged youth in our city. Most recently our Wilson Park club was awarded the “Healthy Out-of-School Time Hero Award” from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for its commitment to helping children develop healthy habits by focusing on nutritious eating and physical activity. The Wilson Park Club was the only program in the nation recognized for its health efforts outside of the school day! Club staff promoted healthier lifestyles to its members by replacing unhealthy foods with healthy foods and beverages, especially during holiday celebrations: vegetables skeletons, tangerine jack-o-lanterns, banana ghosts, etc. Unique hands-on programs were developed including How to make Sushi on a shoe-string budget, and Juicing – both were huge hits! One of the most impactful activities involved having the kids create their own eye-opening motivators by filling up plastic cups with the amount of sugar found in their favorite sodas or snacks. After seeing how much sugar was in the food they commonly ate the kids began to choose the healthy alternatives on their own.
The staff also introduced a variety of activities like Zumba, yoga, high intensity work outs, relay races, and dancing to get kids on their feet. Wilson Park extended their healthy efforts beyond the club walls by engaging their community. Kids were sent home with wellness tips for their families to share and make healthy decisions together.
What else would you like us to know?
We are living in the nation’s poorest Metro City, with almost 40 percent of youth in poverty, the future of Philadelphia’s kids is in our hands. It is imperative that we begin to take a BOLD stance for these kids and make a transformational change that will alter their lives. Without our voice, these children have no hope. Many have been forgotten. As they grow older, their feeling of neglect turns to anger- prompting them to use drugs, alcohol and violence to get what they need in life.
When was the last time you have driven through the Germantown, Frankford or West Kensington neighborhoods? Many of our children are situated in living conditions that are similar to that of a third world country with, no internet connection, no computer access, multiple people sleeping in one small room, no furniture and no heat or air-conditioning – these conditions are unacceptable when we live in America, the land of opportunity. The Boys & Girls Club is committed to ensuring that these kids are not forgotten, and to turning any feeling of neglect or anger into pride, determination and hope for a better future. We will take a BOLD stance to change their environment, if not at home, at their Boys & Girls Clubs.
We need to provide these kids a clean, warm and nurturing environment that educates them, strengthens their values and character, and awakens their mind with opportunities that develop the whole child. By Going BOLD, we will expose our youth to opportunities that will help them succeed educationally, socially, athletically and in life. Our kids deserve a chance to thrive, reach for their dreams and aspirations and turn their heads from the negative behaviors of the streets. Their time to shine is now, we will need everyone’s support as we GO BOLD and take a stand for the kids who need us most.
Some of our buildings over 100 years old! To kick off our BOLD CHANGES we are working on a large capital campaign to completely renovate our Germantown Club, transforming it into a full campus. These changes will allow for more kids to join the Club and give them new opportunities to better themselves and their futures.
After speaking with john Farley, our only response was “Wow.” The true, heartfelt passion and drive of this organization and its positive goal filled us with pride for our community and hope for the future. We are overjoyed that The Boys & Girls Club is here in Philadelphia, providing needed support and encouragement to our city’s youth. We want to offer a sincere thanks to John Farley and everyone involved with The Boys & Girls Clubs for taking the time to speak with us and doing everything that they do.