GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: 2022 $100k Grantee Preparing to Build the Impact100 SJ Wing

Impact100 South Jersey’s 2022 Core Mission grantee, Boys & Girls Clubs of Cumberland County (BGCCC), has had a busy year since our 2022 Annual Meeting. In addition to rebuilding their post-pandemic, in-person youth enrollment, they have been working with their local government to secure permits and an architect to design an addition to the youth center that our $100,000 grant funded.

The addition, to be called the Impact100SJ wing, will substantially expand the size of the Club’s current Youth for Change Center, enabling them to serve a greater number of local children and teens.

The Club’s main building in Vineland, which was previously a credit union, has limited square footage and has proved challenging to serve young people of various ages. The expansion will help the Club build capacity by adding a 60’ x 40’ extension to the building that will accommodate more young people (50+) to engage in life-changing programs and activities. The Club also hopes to incorporate green or high-performance building components to reduce long-term building costs.  BGCCC also holds programs at two other locations in the County – Bridgeton and Millville. However, Vineland has the greatest need and the greatest number of young people enrolling in their programs.

BGCCC’s Executive Director, Chris Volker, heard about Impact100 South Jersey’s core mission grant opportunity after Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland County received the grant in 2019. After submitting proposals in 2020 and 2021, their plans to expand their facility was an ideal project that moved them through the grant review process in 2022 to be a finalist. Chris and his team, including successful alumni and 2021 Youth Of the Year winner Melia Gaines, made a compelling presentation at our annual meeting to earn the top grant award.

BGCCC staff engaged those enrolled in their programs to provide input on the design and use of the new wing. Overwhelmingly, the adolescent students made the case for a teen center where they can have a safe space to talk about age related issues, challenges, and prepare for adulthood. The teen center will also have movable dividers to make the space more flexible to accommodate a variety of programs and be available to other age groups as needed. This expansion aligns with the Club’s long-term strategic goal to have a greater presence in the Cumberland County region as they expand to serve more young people. Many of the areas in Cumberland County are extremely impoverished and families there lack access to programs focusing on academic success, healthy lifestyles, good character and citizenship, and other important lessons for life. Under the proposed expansion program, the Club will not only be able to more than double its capacity, but also be better equipped to create a supportive environment that promotes success so their young people are better prepared for the future.

After a lengthy process, Chris Volker is happy to share that the Club has received approval for the permits to begin building the extension. The architect they are working with is awaiting design approval by the board of directors.  Chris is expecting to break ground this fall and hold a ribbon cutting for the new wing in the spring of 2024. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project.

Opportunities Beyond the Check

As enrollment climbs and staffing grows, Chris is planning for the addition of a resource development director to ensure financial sustainability of the Club. The board of directors is also seeking to fill seats and ramp up their fundraising activities to meet the demands for their programs. 

The Club is currently a heavily grant funded organization as rural Cumberland County lacks both corporate community members and wealthy residents to support their mission. As such, they rely on grants, events, and in-kind donations as well as volunteers. Impact100 SJ members can support BGCCC “beyond the check” by volunteering for skills- based projects, join committees and help plan events, mentor or present to youth in areas of your expertise, and if your passion and skills align, join their board of directors.  Once the building is completed, we will share a list of supplies that will be needed to be donated.

About the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland County

The mission of the Boys & Girls Club is to enable all young people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The organization strives to accomplish this mission by providing a safe, nurturing, diverse and educational environment where young people gather on a regular basis during out-of-school hours. Their programs are available for kids ages 5-18.

The goals of the Club’s programming and services are to increase the high school graduation rate, build self-esteem, discover new skill sets, prepare for college and the workforce, and engage young people with service work through the afterschool program. Guiding them to make smart and informed decisions for the future is a key indicator in the success of their programs. To ensure student progress and outcome achievement, the Club’s structured activities have clearly identified and measurable outcomes and are aligned with each child’s “Development Plan.”  

BGCCC boasts four New Jersey Youth of the Year winners out of the last seven years and one Northeast Regional winner. These outstanding teens were awarded scholarships for college and  all have accomplished much since aging out of the Club and pursuing their goals and dreams. This is an impressive achievement for a Club of their size that is part of a national network of over 5,000 BGCs, some significantly larger and located in major metropolitan regions.