A jubilant crowd gathered in front of a royal blue ribbon that stretched across the entrance of the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club, on Weir Lane last Friday. The occasion was the completion of the club’s Building Great Futures expansion and renovation project, which began in 2019. Despite construction and fundraising delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 42,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility opened to area children on Sept. 13.
“This is a very special day in our club’s history,” said two-time board President John Campbell. “Seventy-one years ago, a group of people like us stood outside this building to change Locust Valley forever. This continues to afford children with a place that they call their second home. We have changed with the times, but what has never changed is our belief in our children.”
The club serves roughly 1,200 children ages 5 to 18, offering them everything from after-school homework help and college prep to cultural outings. They are encouraged to get involved in community service, and can take part in programs in media and technology; the fine, performing and culinary arts; and sports and athletics.
The $10 million project — the club has raised $6 million so far — has added four homework help classrooms, two renovated gyms, a teaching kitchen and dining area, as well as tween and teen centers. The new space includes two fine-arts studios, dance and creative movement studios as well as a game room and refurbished athletic fields.
“It feels great to open the new building,” said Marc Bilbry, the club’s associate director. “It’s been almost two years. But we did have alternate sites while under construction. I’m excited to run the regular school-year programs.”
The original entrance to the club was on Forest Avenue, a large intersection where Saskia Thomson, a club volunteer, said there were accidents. “The entrance is now on Weir where security is high,” she said. “The buses drop children off at this entrance, and then they go down a flight of stairs to be scanned in the lower level of the building.”
Part of the extension includes a room where children can learn creative movement, Pilates and yoga. In the fine-arts studio they can learn how to sculpt, and in the tween center they can play table tennis and bumper pool.
The kitchen is dedicated to alumnus Mike Maroni, who died in 2019. Children can learn how to cook there, which Maroni would have loved. His widow, Maria, said she was grateful to the club for creating the room in her husband’s memory.
“He always wanted to help other people, especially children,” Maria said. “This is a tribute to Mike and his legacy. He will be making a difference in children’s lives.”
The club was established in 1950, and it has remained dedicated to the mission of inspiring and enabling young people to realize their potential. They are encouraged to be productive, responsible and caring citizens and to become community leaders of tomorrow. Youth of all economic, social and family circumstances — and especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds — make use of all the club has to offer.