Boys & Girls Clubs opens at former All Saints’ Episcopal Church Site
As writer William Edward Hickson once said, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again.” After a deal fell through to acquire the lease for a new Teen Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stoneham & Wakefield regrouped and continued searching. Eventually, that led to a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and a new home at the former All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Stoneham.
The teen program space at the Stoneham location has been centered around a singular teen room. However, the teen population has outgrown the space, causing the room to often feel overcrowded. Chief Executive Adam Rodgers has recognized this need for a new space for teens.
“It’s been a long-term goal to give a real place for kids, especially that age, to go and have a place where they feel like they can go after school and it belongs to them,” said Rodgers. “It’s really valuable for the community and we hope the teens will love it.”
In April 2019, the Clubs nearly acquired what is now the former Salem Five Bank located at the corner of William and Main Street. After the Clubs proposed several changes to meet regulations as a teen center, the landlord who owned the building could not agree.
With the Clubs still needing a new home for a Teen Center for the Stoneham community, Rodgers began searching extensively, looking at various storefronts in downtown Stoneham. The club’s search broke through when they learned the former All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Stoneham was possibly available as an option.
Forging a partnership with Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Clubs were in talks to work out the details of leasing and using the church for six months. In December 2019, an agreement was reached to acquire a lease of the church property to use as a Teen and Youth Center. Last year, the Clubs went before the ZBA and the Planning Board to obtain the variances and permissions needed to operate at the location. The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is a statewide organization that took over management of the property when the All Saints Parish folded. Rodgers called Cardoza, and the rest of the diocesan staff an “incredibly critical” partner in acquiring the space and helping to bring the space back to life.
The Teen Center location opened this month as a learning and childcare center as part of the Clubs’ hybrid schooling program. The Clubs plan to open the location as a Teen Center starting next school year in September 2021, with the hopes of having a socially distant open house for the public in late August.
In order to get the aging church buildings ready to serve the community again, the Boys & Girls Clubs is investing a large amount of money in rehabbing the space. A large part of these renovations were made possible by a StonehamBank grant of over $105,000 specifically to support the teen center.
“We’re a proud supporter of the new Teen Center of Stoneham,” said Edward F. Doherty, Jr., CEO, StonehamBank. “I grew up in a local community as a member of the Boys & Girls Club. I remember the importance of the club, and the positive impact the club had on me in the formative years of my life. StonehamBank is so grateful to be part of this project and have the ability to help support the young adults of our communities through a program like this!”
In addition to after school hang out space, a Tech center, and a community meeting space the Teen Center will feature a music studio and recording booths along with several areas for performance opportunities. Rodgers expressed the need for the space to match what the teens want and are passionate about.
“We will follow where the teens want to go,” said Rodgers. “The best programs come out of what the participants are interested in and what they want to drive.”
Rodgers also recognized the Teen Center’s important role in helping teens with certain issues that have only been exposed further by COVID-19. “There’s always an urgent need for teen programs. We are still in the midst of an opioid crisis, as well as alarming trends in substance use and teen mental health. Sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade is such a critical age to engage teens and let them know there’s a community that is here for them,” said Rodgers. “Whatever their passion is, whether it is music or sports or anything that gets them engaged, that is what we want to provide. It is amazing to have a space where older teen mentors and adults can be there and connect with the youth.”