1938: The Beginning
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield opened on November 4, 1938. Mrs. Jennie Lincoln, wife of Juvenile Judge A.W. Lincoln, got the idea of a “Club for Boys” after her husband related the need of such an organization to help youngsters with special problems. She discussed her thoughts with members of the Commercial Street Business Men’s Club and that group agreed to allow her to use the basement of the Community Building, located at 219 E. Commercial, for a place to conduct the program without charge and with free utilities. This room was small (35×55 square feet) but adequate to accommodate the initial program, catering to 25 to 50 boys who lived within a few blocks of the Club. This facility was used for 11 years, until 1949. The Articles of Agreement were written pursuant to chapter Article 10 of the revised statute of MO., 1938, officially naming the organization “North Side Boys Club.” J.R. Medley, President, Henry Bugg and Jennie Lincoln signed the document.
Money was hard to come by during the Great Depression, but Mrs. Lincoln was able to keep a little in the till by making frequent visits to the businesses up and down Commercial Street, or wherever else she could find a friend in possession of the needed supplies or willing to make a cash donation. Soon, it became evident she needed help with the physical chores; on February 20, 1939, she called upon her social friends and the Boys Club Women’s Auxiliary was formed, its purpose being to raise the money needed to arrange programs for the Boys Club. The Auxiliary continues to be an integral contributor to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield’s scholarship program. The Auxiliary’s annual “Walk This Way” Walkathon, now known as the Water Run/Walk, contributes $12,000 toward college scholarships each year.
Early in 1940, Mrs. Lincoln visited the National Headquarters of Boys Clubs of America in New York City. It was her desire to eventually affiliate the Springfield Club with the national organization. Fulfilling her wish, a charter was granted on April 15, 1946.
When the Sertoma Club (formally the Cooperative Club) was chartered in Springfield in 1941, Mrs. Lincoln heard they were looking for an active program to sponsor. With her age and declining health, Mrs. Lincoln faced an uphill challenge in managing the Boys Club, and was pleased when the Sertomans agreed to assume responsibility. She continued her support and interest until her death in 1945.
In spite of World War II and the effect it had on community life everywhere, ambitious Sertoma members joined hands with other Boys Club friends to elect an official Board of Directors, form a financial base and make plans for the future. The name was changed from “North Side Boys Club” to “Springfield Boys Club, Inc.” It was soon recognized that the Club had outgrown its small basement quarters and it was time to grow with physical facilities and the ability to serve more youth. The first capital funds drive was initiated in 1945, resulting in enough money to purchase property at 1300 Boonville, and to put plans on the drawing board for a new Boys Club building. This was certainly an exciting time since this was to be the first building in Missouri to be used entirely as a Boys Club. This gained national and regional recognition throughout the Boys Club movement, and it presented a challenge for our conservative-minded community to undertake such a task. In fact, two more capital funds drives (1947-1949) occurred before the new facility became a reality.
Construction began in the late summer of 1947. In the time following the war, and with the rising cost of materials and labor, there were several delays in progress; it was not until December 1949 that a portion of the building could be occupied. The completion of the building presented a real challenge to the members of the Board of Directors, the Woman’s Auxiliary, Sertomans and other Boys Club friends. We are indeed thankful for all who stayed faithful to the cause, and to the 40 Sertomans who signed $200 personal notes to raise $5,000 to finish the swimming pool addition in 1952. And again to those who financed construction of the Jennie Lincoln Special Events Room in 1956, the Watkins Gym in 1964, and the Cultural Activities and Chapel addition in 1969.
The Boys Club became affiliated with the Springfield United Way in 1946, with an inaugural allotment being $31,000. Since that time, the United Way has enjoyed steady growth and been a large factor in the growth of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, as well as other benefiting agencies.
In 1969, a survey indicated a need for our Boys Club program on the west side area of Springfield. An eight-acre tract of land was purchased with funds from the Floyd Jones estate and a sizable gift from the Sertoma Clubs. A capital funds campaign conducted in 1973 helped finance the construction of the Westside Unit building at 720 S. Park Avenue. A master plan was developed with a four-phase program in mind. Phase one began in the spring of 1975 and was completed the following October.
Long range corporate planning indicated it would be at least 10 years before the building and the athletic field was completed. This plan was modified when Mrs. Jeannette L. Musgrave, a long-time friend of the Boys Club, came forward with sufficient financial support to finish the building in just three years. This unit is now called the Musgrave Westside Boys Club, in memory of Dr. Edward Musgrave and in honor of Mrs. Musgrave.
In 1973, under the authority of the Board of Directors, the Boys Club Unit building at 1300 Boonville was named the Bill Henderson Unit, in honor of Bill Henderson, who served as the Executive Director of Springfield Boys Club, Inc. from February 1947 to his retirement in September 1983. Mr. Henderson was an outstanding leader who worked tirelessly to meet the needs of area youth.
Mr. William Stalnaker followed Mr. Henderson as Executive Director. Bill worked his way through the ranks of the Boys & Girls Club Movement, beginning in 1962 after graduating from Fairmont State College in West Virginia, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Physical Education. Bill has served in numerous positions, including the Athletic Director in both the Locust Valley, New York Boys Club, and the Omaha Boys Club, the Executive Director in Jacksonville Beach Boys Club in Florida, Unit Director in Chattanooga and the Boys Club in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
JUNE 1991: BOYS AND GIRLS MERGE
The original Girls Club was established in 1963 by the Community Service League (now known as Junior League). Its prime purpose was to foster the character development of girls, kindergarten through high school. Initial programs were administered entirely by volunteers who planned their own programs, had their own door keys and cleaned up after classes were over.
Until 1965, the Girls Club conducted its program in a rented frame house in the area of Mercy Villa on West Nichols. In the first two years, both attendance and variety of programs offered increased steadily, necessitating the need for larger quarters. During this time of major development, the Personnel Committee was directed to hire a full-time Executive Director. Genevieve Kynion was hired to the position, and continued as Executive Director for the next 21 years. In gratitude for her outstanding work, the Board of Directors renamed the Division St. building “The Genevieve Kynion Girls Club” in May 1978.
Pursuing a major goal of the Board of Directors, the Girls Club submitted an application become an affiliated member of the United Way in 1966, and the request was granted. The success of the original Girls Club was so great that in the late 1960s, the need for another club became evident. In 1976, a small shopping center at 2672 W. Harrison was chosen as the site of the second Girls Club. Because of a very generous gift from Mr. James Mellers, the Club was named “The Marietta Mellers West Side Girls Club.”
In 1991, after careful planning, the Boys Club and Girls Club merged to create the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. Thanks to an outstanding Board of Directors and a great staff under the direction of Executive Director Bill Stalnaker, the organization went from a $246,000 annual budget with seven full-time staff to a $1.8 million dollar annual budget with 15 full-time staff members and 30 part-time staff members in just 15 years.
2003-2007: MY GENERATION CAPITAL CAMPAIGN
In 2002, the organization hired Patrick Gartland as the 4th Executive Director in the Clubs’ 64 year history. Pat came to our Club with 28 years of experience as an Executive Director serving with the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County in Ohio and the Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County in the Chicago area. During Pat’s tenure, the organization completed an eight million dollar capital campaign and built the new Stalnaker Unit in Smith Park in 2003, completed a major renovation of the Musgrave Unit in June 2007, and opened the new Henderson Unit in October 2007. These facilities are all built in or near city parks and are some of the best in the nation.
We are indebted to the many individuals, business and civic organizations that have worked together on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club cause. We are especially thankful to the Springfield area Sertoma Clubs and the United Way of the Ozarks for their tremendous support. We are thankful for the opportunity to work with the thousands of youth who allowed the Boys & Girls Club to be a part of their lives. We are proud to have been a part of the Springfield Community. We look forward to continuing our growth, helping today’s youth remain on the right track for tomorrow.
2013-2015: BRIGHT FUTURES CAPITAL CAMPAIGN
In 2013, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield and the Springfield Public School district signed an agreement of partnership for the construction of the new SHERWOOD ELEMENTARY school with a 5,500 square feet Boys & Girls Clubs. The school and adjoining club, located in the southwest area of town near Horton Smith Golf course, opened in the Fall of 2015. The full-service Club features shared school space, such as the gym, cafeteria, tech lab, library, restrooms, art room and other designated areas.
The desire to expand Boys & Girls Club of Springfield into underserved areas had its roots in a Strategic Planning session in 2012. The topic of the need for youth services on the southwest side of town soon became a goal. A series of meetings were held with local leaders to examine the need and move to a solution. Springfield Police Chief, Paul Williams; Greene County Sheriff, Jim Arnott; SPS Superintendent, Norm Ridder; and Bob Belote, Springfield-Greene County Park Board Director, were among those who contributed data at the meetings.
Schools located in that area often served a number of low and moderate income students. At the old Sherwood Elementary school, 61% of the student body qualified for free or reduced rate meals. It was clear the need was there.
At the spring 2013 Boys & Girls Clubs of America conference, the BGC of Toledo presented their model of building Clubs in local schools. Toledo has three Club/school partnerships. The Club brought the idea back to Springfield, at which point we began having discussions with Norm Ridder and SPS leaders. We then learned about the new Sherwood school project. This resulted in taking an assorted team, made up of members from Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, Springfield Public Schools and architect, Jim Stufflebeam of Sapp Design Associates Architects to Toledo, Ohio in late July 2013. During the visit, the group met with the Toledo Superintendent and leadership team, toured all three Club/school sites, met with principals and the Club staff, and visited with the Toledo architect. After returning, both parties decided to make this project a reality.
The signing of the contract at the School District Board meeting solidified the partnership and began the movement forward with a collaboration that will impact many youth and families in our community. The full service Club, the Sertoma Unit, connected to the Sherwood Elementary opened in August 2015. The state-of-the-art facility features 20,000 square feet of shared school spaces, such as the gym, cafeteria, tech lab, library and art room, as well as 5,500 square feet dedicated solely to our Club members.
The Club encourages ideal collaboration between teachers and Club staff, allowing the Club to best meet the individual needs of our members. Special thanks go out to Heart of the Ozarks Sertoma, Queen City Sertoma and the Sertoma Club of Springfield for their joint commitment of donating $500,000 for a matching grant for the Sertoma Unit, and to David McQueary and David O’Reilly as campaign co-chairs.
Today the Club has grown in program offerings to meet the diverse needs of its members. New programs include the Mission to Mentor and the Mental Health program. A full program listing includes over forty-four different general program areas, with literally endless other opportunities, including programs with our extensive partner organizations, including Springfield Greene County Parks Department and Evangel, MSU and Drury Universities.
We have also partnered in 2017 with the Atlanta based company, Southface Energy Institute, for our sustainability project, “Living the Dream, Making it Green”. Our oldest physical location, the Musgrave Unit has had new HVAC improvements for energy efficiency and to lessen the Clubs’ environmental impact. This initiative includes several Earth-friendly updates to the Musgrave facility, including: LED lighting, an updated energy management system, a pool blanket and storage reel, improvements to drinking fountains and shower stalls, and a brand new solar energy system. The total cost for the project was estimated at $150,000. The wonderful part is that Southface Energy Institute paid 50% or $75,000 of the total price and, with the fundraising leadership of Tim O'Reilly, the entire balance amount was raised in a few months.
This green energy program will have numerous benefits to the Musgrave Club and its members as well as our community. The project will help the Club save over 25% on its utility costs each and every year, allowing for more funds to be used for services and programs.
Additionally, Club members will participate in educational programs that teach the significance of taking care of the environment and the importance of utilizing our resources.
2019: the future of BGCS
In April of 2019 the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield appointed Brandy Harris as the new Chief Executive Officer,
Brandy received her B.A. in Speech Communication from Drury University in 2008, and her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Missouri State in 2015. Harris’ involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs began in 2011 as an Americorps Member and Program Leader in Lawrence, Kansas. By 2012 she assumed the role of Program Manager. An opportunity to become the Sertoma Unit Program Director brought her back to Springfield in 2013 and by 2015 Brandy became the Sertoma Unit Director. Brandy also took on the position of Director of Programs in 2017. Her experience and successful leadership in these positions has led to national recognition including Boys & Girls Club of America’s Honor Award for Best Overall Program among several other national awards.
President of the Board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, Chris Myers, describes Harris as “a passionate, natural leader with the unique ability to inspire those around her.” With boundless energy and creativity, Harris has a vision for the future of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, as well as the experience, strategic mindset, and relationship-building skills to ensure that future is realized.
We are indebted to the many individuals, business and civic organizations that have worked together on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club cause. We are especially thankful to the Springfield area Sertoma Clubs and the United Way of the Ozarks for their tremendous support. We are thankful for the opportunity to work with the thousands of youth who have allowed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield to be a part of their lives. We are proud to be a part of the Springfield Community, growing and planning to make it a better place to live.
For more information, please contact Debbie Herren at 417-862-9249