It all began with a Christmas dinner for 102 rough-and-tumble newsboys in 1892.
Realizing that those struggling boys needed much more than a holiday meal, John Gunckel solicited support from community leaders and went on to help thousands of area youngsters at what became the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo. Eighty years after that first generous act, the Clubs entered a new era of community partnership with support from the Toledo Community Foundation.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo was among our very first grant recipients,” noted Foundation President, Keith Burwell. “Over the past 40 years, nearly a million Foundation dollars have supported the Clubs’ mission of helping kids reach their full potential.”
Continuing the legacy of business community leadership, founding TCF board member Sam Carson began the partnership between the Foundation and the Clubs. Carson family donor advised funds have supported capital improvements, helped establish the Clubs’ Goal Setters program, and assisted with college expenses for 30 Clubs’ alums. When the Clubs sought to expand their community partnerships in the mid 1990s, the Foundation again played a role.
“While developing new strategic initiatives, the Clubs’ governing board realized that Toledo Public Schools and our Clubs were the two oldest institutions serving kids in our city,” said Clubs’ Executive Director Dave Wehrmeister. “With the vision of then School Superintendent Eugene Sanders, we began our new full service Club in Sherman Elementary — and Carson family funds helped us establish a Club in Marshall Elementary.
“We now have three in-school Boys & Girls Clubs in neighborhoods where we’re needed most, supporting what kids are doing during classroom hours,” Wehrmeister noted. “Goal Setters and our Power Hour homework completion program not only help kids achieve, but also provide character-building experiences as older kids mentor the younger in a fun and caring environment. Toledo Community Foundation resources have done much to make this progress possible.”
In coming years, the Foundation will support organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs in a significant new way. Aspire, a major strategic partnership to help Toledo’s children develop from cradle to career, brings together leaders of business, education and community groups in strategic collaborations much like that of the Clubs and Toledo Public Schools.
One such business leader is Al Stroucken, Chairman and CEO of global glass container maker Owens-Illinois, Inc. and Chair of the Aspire Board of Managers. “Aspire is using continuous improvement processes and data to drive accountability and results among the many initiatives already underway in the city. We believe we can help enhance the collective impact of the many groups at work on behalf of the children of Lucas County to bring long-lasting change.”
“The Foundation’s investment in our Clubs has paid real human dividends,” said Wehrmeister, noting that he himself was a former Boys & Girls Clubs member. “Ninety-six percent of our kids are on free or subsidized school lunches, and their family circumstances are often challenging — so there is much work yet to be done. We look forward to playing a role in Aspire as our relationship with the Foundation continues.”