by Terry Rogers
On February 27, the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club will celebrate 10 years at their location of Airport Road. The celebration will honor volunteers and donors who helped make the club a success as well as those who helped take the new building from a dream to a reality. The organization will specifically highlight the contributions of Richard M. Johnson of RY Johnson & Sons.
“We are currently serving more kids each day than we have at any time in the seven years I have been here,” Tod Van Eyken, Executive Director, said. “We are a Delaware Stars Level 5 facility and that speaks to the quality and passion of our staff to make a difference in the lives of our kids. Our preschool is full with a waiting list and our preschoolers are graduating and entering the Morris Early Childhood Center ready to learn.”
The Milford Club is part of a statewide organization that has been in existence since 1931. The Milford club was founded in 1995, born out of a discussion where members of the community recognized a need for a place where children and teens could go for homework help, positive character development as well as artistic and athletic expression. Initially, the club operated in the old Fisher Appliances building on Northeast Front Street until they were able to build a new building with more space and an indoor pool off Airport Road.
“We initially opened with just preschool and after school programs,” Van Eyken said. “The new facility allowed us to expand programs for teams, add aquatic programs like swim lessons, a community swim team which we see as a feeder for the Milford High School team as well as adult water aerobics and lane swim programs. Last summer, we introduced $1 Swim Night which is Friday evening from 6 to 8 PM and I am thrilled to see entire families coming in to have fun in the pool. Additionally, our pool is used by the high school swim team and Milford Parks & Recreation for their indoor basketball and indoor soccer leagues.”
Van Eyken states that the club has impacted thousands of young people with many growing into productive parents and citizens in Milford and other areas. The club works to achieve their mission statement which reads, “The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware is part of a nationwide movement, whose mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring systems.” Van Eyken explained that the club strives to work toward that mission each day and that if they are able to help one child make better choices today, they will have helped make a better future for the entire Milford community.
“One of the benefits of longevity is we get to see our kids grow,” Hilary LaMotte Burke, MSW, Director of Marketing and Communications, said. “We have children who started as preschoolers who are now driving, parents and business professionals who started with the club as teens. That is so cool to see. We know we have impacted thousands of young kids, our statistics and data tell us this, but bearing witness to club kids who are now grown and productive citizens of Milford is really profound and we look forward to continuing that impact for many years to come.”
Some of the stand out moments Van Eyken and Burke recalled included recognition by Governor John Carney with Outstanding Youth Service Awards, numerous community collaborations that demonstrate to members of the club that their community cares about their growth and success as well as growth in the volunteer program where the club is engaged with local individuals and communities that continually show up for our kids and the club. They are also proud of the Junior Youth of the Year Program which has expanded and the Youth of the Year program, both of which highlight the amazing youth they see in the program each day.
Over the past then years, Van Eyken explained that funding has been one of the biggest challenges, especially with what the club wants to do compared to what they can do.
“We have been blessed with support from the Milford community for the past 25 years and we work very hard to make the best use of the donations we receive,” Van Eyken said. “Additionally, we aggressively seek grants to supplement our programs. Some years are more successful fundraising years than others, but thankfully, we have never had to suspend our core programming for lack of funding. Key members of this community stepped up years ago to raise fund needed to build the new facility. People like Richard Johnson, David Burton, Bob Voshell, Harvey Kenton, Linda Chick, Kate Marvel, Fred Duffy as well as Tom and Debra Mullins, were key to that effort and I am sure there are many more than I can name here. It was a true community effort.”
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