Special Coverage  

Boston Chapter Makes Big Impact with Local Boys & Girls Club

For the Boston Chapter, finding ways to serve their community has always been paramount to their foundation. So it was unexpected, yet fitting, when they were honored with the Medford Community Partner of the Year award by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Medford and Somerville at their annual Inspiration Celebration earlier this spring.
Valerie A. Danner

The award was to recognize the chapter’s three-year commitment to building a program for at-risk teens.

“The ALA Boston Chapter has partnered with our Boys & Girls Clubs since 2016, raising more than $30,000 during that time in support of Teen Programs at our Medford Club,” says Lindsay Smythe, Executive Director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Medford and Somerville.

It filled a need within the community. “There wasn’t a program from the 14- to 18-year-olds, which can be a vulnerable time in a child’s life,” says Chris O’Sullivan, CLM, who is Immediate Past President of the Boston Chapter and the Chief Financial Officer with Gesmer Updegrove, LLP. This funding provided programs and resources to these teens, including after-school events and programs, field trips, and counseling, guidance and mentorship that they may not otherwise have access to.

The Boston Chapter fully embraced the program as is evidenced by their fundraising efforts. “We guaranteed them a minimum of $10,000 a year and exceeded that for two years, raising $15,000 or more and are on our way to accomplishing that in 2018 as well,” says Ginni Klier, who serves as VP Communications and Visibility for the chapter and is the Office Manager with Kotin Crabtree & Strong, LLP.

At the start, there were only a few kids in this age group getting these services. Thanks to the partnership with the Boston Chapter, they now have 20 to 30 teens taking advantage of the program. “We wanted to help the kids as they grow up,” says Chris. “Maybe if you can help one kid do something … to go to college or look at the world differently — it’s worth it.” It’s also allowed them to expose teens to the possibilities of careers in legal management. And because of the donations, they were able to serve more teens and offer more programs.

“Thanks to ALA workplace fundraisers, golf tournaments, social events and more, Medford Club teen membership has tripled, the Club added a second high school teen night weekly, leadership development opportunities for our teens have greatly expanded, and our teens are reaching more Academic Success goals, including college visits and prep,” says Smythe. “The very generous ALA Boston network of chapter members and business partners also collects new warm hats, gloves, and scarves every year for us to share with our Club members who need them. In short, ALA Boston Chapter support has been even more transformative than we had even hoped, earning them the title of our 2017 Community Partners of the Year.”

The students have felt the impact, too. Smythe regularly shares letters of thanks from the teens who have benefitted from the program.

Another key to the program’s success is that the Boston Chapter is selective when it comes to picking organizations to work with. The leadership made a pointed effort to really focus their charity efforts. They know members are stretched thin with time, so they strive to find organizations that everyone can get behind.

“We do a lot of vetting of charities, and we have certain criteria they have to meet,” says Ginni. “We needed something that the chapter can get behind — everybody knows somebody who attended the Boys & Girls Club.”

Chris says the Boys & Girls Club fit that perfectly and it wasn’t a hard sell for members. He notes that even when members came to town for last fall’s Eastern Regional Conference in Boston, they also donated to the programs.

That collective effort is what makes the award even more meaningful. “What struck me as interesting is that most of the people who win the award are businesses in the community. But this is a nonprofit funding another nonprofit winning the award,” says Chris. “We didn’t start out to win it, but just like with the ALA awards, it shows some accomplishment.”