The oohs and ahs could be heard echoing through the attractive, sunlight-filled rooms as a group of community, civic, and business leaders joined local residents in a tour of the newly renovated facilities of the West End House Boys & Girls Club of Allston-Brighton.
The guests arrived on the morning of Sept. 5 to take part in dedication ceremonies for the transformed and updated building and to honor the 1,500 individuals who contributed to the West End House’s $7.5 million capital campaign.
Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers was one of the keynote speakers, along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. The ceremonies were chaired by “7 NEWS” entertainment reporter Sara Edwards.
“This event makes us think about what’s really special about our country,” said Summers. “It’s people working together to make things better.”
Summers pointed out that while the purpose of the event was to celebrate the renovation of a building, the young people who use the facility are the real focus of that effort.
“Renovations work better for buildings than for human lives,” Summers said. “It’s better when lives don’t have to be renovated, when addictions don’t have to be treated, when criminal behavior doesn’t have to be unlearned, when young people grow and flourish and are ready to take on the responsibilities of society.”
By helping to fill the “gap between what schools can do and what parents and families can do,” institutions like the West End House, which offer children after-school activities, tutoring, arts, athletic events, service clubs, and drug and alcohol prevention programs, provide an important element in the future of the community, said Summers.
“One thing I’ve learned is that Harvard will not succeed except as a contributing part of Boston and the surrounding communities. That’s why I’m so proud to be part of this event,” he said.
Harvard contributed $50,000 to the West End House capital campaign.
“The West End House has helped generations of boys and girls develop into healthy men and women,” said Menino. “And now, with this improved facility and expanded programming, the West End House is even better. Boston is a national leader when it comes to providing quality after-school programs. What is the secret of our success? The good work of organizations like the West End House Boys & Girls Club.”
The dramatically redesigned and renovated facility on Allston Street represents a new beginning for the 96-year-old organization, which serves more than 1,200 neighborhood youth between the ages of 6 and 18.
A 6,000-square-foot addition on the rear of the building was named after the late Louis Kane ’53, founder of Au Bon Pain, who was a lifelong member and past president of the club. It contains a computer lab, lounge, and small kitchen, a dance studio, teen center, and a community meeting room. Renovated spaces on the first floor include an art room, photography darkroom, staff offices, and locker rooms.
The ground floor houses the Harvard Education Center, named in recognition of the University’s contribution to the capital campaign. It offers opportunities for homework help, tutoring, and building computer skills.
“The reaction from our youth members has been overwhelmingly positive,” said West End House executive director Andrea Howard. “You can clearly see how pleased and proud the kids are to have such a beautiful new clubhouse that they can call their own.”
Founded in 1906 in the old West End neighborhood of Boston, West End House was relocated to Allston in 1971 when the West End community was displaced by urban renewal. It was renamed the West End House Boys & Girls Club of Allston-Brighton.