Where Every Child Can BE GREAT – the Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club

The Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club (BGCGW) has a very simple credo – every child has the potential to BE GREAT!  And they work to fulfill that credo every day.  As part of the larger national network, the Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club is committed to providing:

  • a safe place to learn and grow
  • ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals
  • life-enhancing programs and character development opportunities
  • hope and opportunity

A few months ago I had a chance encounter with Del Ray neighbor and AOBGC Board Member Mary Burner.  After learning that we write as much about community and neighborhood as we do about real estate, Mary invited us to write about BCGC of Alexandria and especially about their building program.  I knew about the clubs from my time at America’s Promise, so the answer was an easy yes.

Currently located at 410 North Payne Street in the heart of the historic Parker-Gray neighborhood, the original Alexandria club was built in 1936.  Having long since outgrown its physical capacity, while continuing to offer more programs and serve increasing numbers of children, the  Board of Directors authorized a $2 million capital campaign in 2002 .  Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Nov. 30, 2008 with Mayor Bill Euille and U.S. Congressman Jim Moran in attendance.  The club is on track to reopen in July and as Mary says, “We need to get our kids back in the club.”

With an annual budget of $475,000, the club has almost 300 registered participants and serves an average of 45 children a day.  “Membership” is $25 a year per child but no child is ever turned away for lack of funds.  The budget is supported by grants, city earmarks and a volunteer board committed to fund raising.  The club is open M-F from 2:30pm to 7:00pm during the school year and from 7:00am to 6:00pm during the summer months.

Jim Almond, an 18 year veteran of the BGCA system, has been the Executive Director of the Alexandria club for the past 8 years.  Despite the absence of heat on the day we met, Jim’s enthusiasm for his work quickly warmed the room.  Jim fully embraces the idea that every child has potential and that it is up to all of us to support and nourish that potential.  In addition to Jim, there are two additional full time staff and 3 part time staff.

Now, about that building – while the exterior of the building will not change dramatically, the interior has been gutted and will be completely restructured.  The two biggest changes will be a full size kitchen with industrial appliances for vocational and educational instruction and increased program space.

The updated kitchen will  offer an early introduction to careers in the food services industry and highlight the issues of childhood obesity with classes in healthy, nutritional cooking. The increased program space will help support the after school programs that are at the heart of the Boys and Girls Clubs. Basketball is a mainstay at the club and counts among its alumni Keith Boganis, an NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks, Mike Heisley, owner of the NBA Memphis Grizzles, and Anthony Winbush who was the MVP on the 2008 T.C. Williams state championship team. Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille is also a veteran of the Alexandria club.

Other after school programs include photography classes, fitness training, financial literacy programs, and perhaps most important, tutoring.

On the national level, famous BGC alumni include Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Brad Pitt, President Bill Clinton, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Martin Sheen, Neil Diamond, Denzel Washington and Big Russ, father of political commentator Tim Russert.  Tim Russert served on the board of the Greater Washington organization and was an indefatigable supporter of the organization, philosophically and financially.

The Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club – and the people who support it – just another reason why living in Alexandria is a good thing.

Virginia Amos

P.S. Thanks to my spouse, and managing partner in all things, for this terrific article.  MB