| Lauren LeBel
WEST SPRINGFIELD – The West Springfield Boys and Girls Club was recently awarded $250,000 from the Baker-Polito Administration and the Children’s Investment Fund (CIF), with its affiliate the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). Altogether, these organizations awarded $7.5 million in Early Education and Out of School Time Fund (EEOST) capital improvement grants to 36 organizations across the state of Massachusetts. These awards are to be utilized for renovations on childcare facilities that serve primarily low-income families.
Through a press release provided by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, the grants to child care centers and out-of-school time programs range from $100,000 to $250,000. Therefore, the Boys and Girls Club received the most aid possible.
With these grants, the focus was on providing necessary funds and addressing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The EEOST grants are financed through the state’s capital budget and provide matching funds that leverage private investment,” read the press release.
Dan D’Angelo, executive director of the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club, said they applied for this capital improvement grant back in December. On July 9, they were notified that their grant was accepted and awarded. Through his understanding, D’Angelo believes that there were over 100 applications across the state.
To utilize this grant, D’Angelo said they began with the renovation of the Boys and Girls Club lobby.
He explained that this project is two fold: “One is to open up more space – more space to congregate and for our families – and the second part is security of the building.”
The club has installed security cameras both inside and outside of the building. D’Angelo said the security system will protect everyone, especially their younger population, i.e. preschoolers. He explained that to get into the preschool, you must know someone or show a proof of I.D. These doors are always locked, however, the entire building will now be more secure.
The other area of renovation addresses the “dead areas,” as described by D’Angelo. The dead areas include the showers and locker rooms that are no longer utilized.
“All programs are licensed to the EEC (Department of Early Education and Care),” said D’Angelo. With this, the policy and procedures are that there must be one toilet per 20 kids. In an effort to bring in more kids, the Boys and Girls Club decided to expand their facilities.
In addition, there will be a new office and program space constructed, along with a steam and art program. D’Angelo said that this phase of renovations will cost about $565,000.
“When we applied in December, we were just about to go out and bid and start the process,” explained D’Angelo. Renovations began in February and are predicted to be completed within a few weeks.
Currently, the lobby and program space is being utilized.
“It’s worked out well,” claimed D’Angelo. “We’re thrilled for the new program space and we’re proud of the lobby. It’s welcoming and people feel safe.”
When the club closed for four months during the pandemic, D’Angelo said that all of the renovations they had in place were gone, along with the finances and rainy day funds.
“When we were awarded this grant, it finished off a lot of the project,” he said.
D’Angelo expressed his gratitude to Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.
Although it’s been a long time coming, D’Angelo said, “It’s more than worth the wait.”