Salvation Army and Boys & Girls Club look to partner for youth programs in New London

Two New London-based nonprofits with national affiliations are planning a partnership that would resurrect programs for at-risk youth that were lost this year.

The Salvation Army is in talks with the Boys & Girls Club of America and is formulating a plan that would bring the defunct Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Connecticut under the Salvation Army umbrella.

Capt. Jose Borrero, commanding officer at the Salvation Army’s New London Corps, said his organization's New London location has room to host the variety of health, educational and social development programs previously provided by the Boys & Girls Club to more than 100 youth at the Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue.

The Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Connecticut faced a bleak future when the federally subsidized Thames River Apartments were shuttered over the summer. Without a space, the 20-year-old group lost its national affiliation, its funding and its executive director.

The Boys & Girls Club board, however, never disbanded and still manages the club’s assets and remaining finances. Board President Beth Hogan said the group jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the Salvation Army and revive what she believes is a much-needed program.

“It’s the best possible outcome,” Hogan said. “We’re excited at the prospect of a Boys & Girls Club staying here in New London because we think it’s so important to the community. The goal of the board is to see the Salvation Army’s plans succeed.”

A partnership between the two groups is not unprecedented. The Salvation Army for decades has run Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs in other states, offering a safe environment for children and programs in six core areas: education and career development, character and leadership development, health and life skills, arts, sports and fitness, and spiritual development.

Borrero said the goal is to “open the doors to any kid in our community.”

“We’re thinking this is going to be a great partnership, a collaboration that will serve our community,” he said.

The Salvation Army’s New London Corps offers emergency family assistance programs, emergency disaster services and youth and family programs that include the Adventure Corps. The group’s 8,000-square-foot building at 11 Gov. Winthrop Blvd. is a hub of activity this time of the year.

The Salvation Army is in the midst of its holiday activities, which include the Red Kettle campaign, Adopt-A-Family initiative and holiday assistance programs that provide clothing, food and toys to families in need.

Details of the merger still are being worked out but Borrero said he remains confident a plan will emerge at some point early in the new year. It will take some additional financial resources and a commitment from volunteers.

“The one thing we don’t want to do is offer something where the following year we run into the problem of a lack of funding or staff. We want something sustainable,” Borrero said. “That’s why it’s taking time.”

Hogan said the two boards are working together for a smooth transition.

“If this comes together it’s going to be a very good thing. This is like a holiday miracle,” she said.

For more information or information on how to donate visit ctri.salvationarmy.org or the Salvation Army New London Facebook page.

g.smith@theday.com

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