2012 marks the 110 year anniversary for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, founded in 1906.
The first Chicago Boys Club founded in 1902, by John F. Atkinson, at 262 S. State Street, was established to serve homeless boys living in abject poverty. They were ragged and dirty, many having no coats, shoes or hats, and at the time their ill-treatment was not being addressed by society, as a whole.
“It is not only the labor problem, but also the leisure problem to which we must find a solution. We must either build Boys Club rooms in which to instruct them or we must build jails in which to incarcerate them. Which will it be?” Said Chicago Boys Club founder, John F. Atkinson.
In addition to providing impoverished children a safe and clean place to live, sleep and eat, the Boy’s Club of Chicago provided more than 1,700 boys with character-building activities, including the industrial trades of carpentry, printing and cobbling in addition to games, sports and tutoring.
The prevalent sentiment at the time being . . . if you give a boy tools, and show him how to use them, he will perhaps discover an interest in something in which he has an unknown talent.
At the turn of the century, building trades were widely represented in vocational classes, were children built furniture, picture frames, brackets, shelves, bookcases, games, boxes, music stands, easels, benches etc.
Featured photos below are from the Chicago Boy’s Club and Chicago Stock Yard Archives via the Library of Congress
Carpenter class at the Chicago Boys Club
Two boys, members of the Chicago Boys Club, wearing suits,
standing next to a table displaying baskets and books in a book stand with other baskets
and woodworking project displays on the wall in the background in Chicago, Illinois.
Ahead of its time, two years after the Chicago Boys Club was founded,
a Chicago Girls Club was opened at 404 S. South Street in 1904.
In 1912, members could join the clubs for 25 cents per year or 5 cents per month and it cost $12 to serve each member per year. And with the great need to serve young people-in-need, clubs were founded across the city.
Today the Boys & Girls Clubs of America serve nearly 4 million young people annually, through membership and community outreach programs, in some 4,000 Club facilities throughout the country and BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide.
Woodworking-related activities remain a small part of Arts & Crafts Workshop at various clubs across the country, as opposed to a being a part of vocational training, which include health, fitness, character building, leadership and education/career workshops, as opposed to vocational training per say.
The Boys & Girls Club Code
I believe in God and the right to worship according to my own faith and religion.
I believe in America and the American way of life…in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I believe in fair play, honesty and sportsmanship.
I believe in my Boys & Girls Club, which stands for these things.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Boys & Girls Clubs of America number one among youth organizations for the 13th consecutive year, and number 12 among all nonprofit organizations. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America are the official charity of Major League Baseball. Denzel Washington, a former Club member, has been the spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1993.
The Demographic Figures for the Boy’s & Girl’s Clubs of America Today in 2012:
3,985 chartered Clubs facilities, including:
- 1,314 in schools
- 392 BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide
- 360 in public housing
- 199 Native American lands
About the Youth We Serve
- 5% are 5 years old and under
- 46% are 6-10 years old
- 20% are 11-12 years old
- 19% are 13-15 years old
- 10% are 16 and older
- 56% are male
- 44% are female
Ethnicity of Youth Served
- Caucasian – 33%
- African-American – 30%
- Hispanic/Latino – 23%
- Multi-racial – 8%
- Asian-American – 3%
- Native American – 3%
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