State gives Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club $2M to expand

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — The State Bond Commission Tuesday approved a $2 million grant-in-aid for the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield, which will be used to expand its facilities for the benefit of its growing membership.

Earlier this year, the town’s state representatives wrote a letter to the commission requesting $2.5 million for the project. The request was included on the commission’s Dec. 21 agenda.

“Every child should have access to resources that support their growth and development, and that is why I am proud the state is able to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield to expand its teen center and ensure that it can continue providing top-quality services to the community for many years to come,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.

The funding comes as the club prepares to roll out the community phase of its capital “Growth Campaign.” The initiative was established several years ago to identify solutions to address the club’s growing demand.

State dignitaries laud funding for Boys & Girls Club

"... I've seen firsthand how this local treasure helps young people grow into responsible, compassionate and confident adults. With this state funding, the club will have the capacity to change the lives of even more young people from Ridgefield and surrounding communities." - State Sen. Will Haskell

"I am so excited for this funding and for the updated and expanded resources it will provide for these kids, the community at large and the club's ability to grow and offer more services." - State Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo

"When I toured their location last summer, we learned of the many great services they provide for the community, which explained why they were bursting at the seams. This new infusion from the state will help them expand and continue to support the greater Ridgefield area for many years to come." - State Rep. Kenneth Gucker

One of those solutions is a $6.5 million addition that would enable staff to serve twice as many young people on a daily basis. Since 2007, the last time the facility expanded, the club’s membership base has grown by nearly 300 percent, BGCR CEO Mike Flynn said.

Operating through the pandemic underscored the club’s need for additional space, Flynn said, as more families came to depend on its services.

Gov. Ned Lamont toured the facility in June with state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, and state Reps. Aimee Berger-Girvalo, D-Ridgefield, and Kenneth Gucker, D-Ridgefield, with the hopes of bringing “state investment” to the project, Haskell said.

Flynn described the funding as “life-changing.”

“It’s a huge moment for Ridgefield,” he added. “This gives us a clear path to complete this campaign and build the expansion.”

The 11,000-square-foot addition will house a dedicated teen center for high school students, a middle school lounge, a technology café and an auxiliary gym. Since nearly half of the club’s 3,000 members are sixth- to- 12th-graders, the project is largely geared toward them.

The club plans to expand its resources with new programming “laser-focused” on teen mental health, suicide prevention, gun prevention and substance abuse prevention, Flynn said. It also plans to hire a certified counselor to provide social services to members and their families.

With the new space, administrators can repurpose the existing clubhouse for “significantly enhanced” programs, educational activities and counseling services and thus engage more members, Flynn said.

“It will give endless opportunities to kids in the community and surrounding communities,” he added. “With this expansion, there will never be a child turned away.”

About 60 percent of the project’s funds have been raised privately, outside of the state grant. Flynn hopes the club can reach its fundraising goal with support “from the entire community so they feel an ongoing sense of ownership for this project,” he said in an email.

“As long as everything continues to move forward, we’re anticipating for construction to begin in August of 2022,” he added.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com