Volunteer Opportunity: Boys’ & Girls’ Club of Pittsfield
Boys’ & Girls’ Club of Pittsfield: The Business of Volunteerism
When February vacation arrives, school hallways fall silent. It’s a time to rest and regroup for students and teachers alike, but at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club , it marks one of the busiest times of the year.
This year, Berkshire County students will enjoy February vacation from the 15th to 19th, and because of the annual rise in attendance at the club during school vacation weeks, the Boys and Girls Club relies on the talents of both club staff and volunteers, who include adults, teenagers, and younger children performing a variety of tasks, from the mundane to the extraordinary.
Tina Wixom, director of guidance and education at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, said the role of volunteers has become an intrinsic aspect of its overall operation, especially during busy times when more hands are needed to ensure that programs and events run smoothly.
“The club relies on and functions very much because of the volunteer effort, but volunteers are not necessarily adults many are young people who are providing a huge service to the club,” she said. “During February vacation, the events at the club are constant. There are soccer shoot-outs, foul-shot contests, and tugs-of-war going on in the gym during the day and organized swim meets, hockey games, and basketball games in the evening. We need about 75 volunteers just to get through each night.”
A large faction of these volunteers is made up by a group of teens called Senior Leaders, a decades-old program that last year alone logged more than 300 volunteer hours on the club’s behalf. The group is currently 72 members strong, including students from several area high schools including Pittsfield, Taconic, and St. Joseph Central high schools, and models its programming after the national Boys’ and Girls’ Club’s Keystone program, a teen leadership initiative sponsored by the Taco Bell Foundation. Senior Leaders choose their own volunteer activities and to what organizations to which they will donate subsequent funds, and also operate under a formal elected-leadership model with a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
Throughout the year, Senior Leaders plan and stage a number of holiday programs for club members, such as Halloween parties, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas gift drives. Wixom explained that the group often raises funds through events that have already been proven popular among teens and tweens, including dances and sporting events, and then choose the recipients of all funds raised as a group.
“The funds aren’t raised for the club, they’re raised to help members of the Berkshire community at large,” Wixom said. “In the past, Senior Leaders have donated funds and goods to non-profit groups like the Christian Center and Salvation Army, and this year alone, they supported five families in the area with a total of 16 children over the holiday months.”
During February vacation week, Wixom noted that along with other volunteers of all ages, the Senior Leaders become a necessary aspect of the Boys’ and Girls’ Club’s operations.
“No organization of our size could hold the amount of events we do during vacation week without volunteers we could never have a staff that large,” she said.
Wixom concluded that the strength of the club’s volunteer faction, especially that of the Senior Leaders, is one way the club keeps its membership fees nominal $10 a year for children across Berkshire County.
About Boys’ & Girls’ Club of Pittsfield
The Boys’ & Girls’ Club of Pittsfield, Mass. has been in operation for more than a century. A long-term investor in the community, the club focuses on the needs of children of all ages in a diverse, urban area, and offers a
number of community involvement programs in addition to sports, vocational, and recreational opportunities. For more information, visit www.boysandgirlsclubofpittsfield.org or call (413) 448-8258.