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New Boys & Girls Club opens in Franklin

Bob Carter, left, director of operations for Boys and Girls Clubs of greater Concord, throws his hands in the air after T.J. Charbono, 6, right, scroed a goal during a fooseball game at the new Boys and Girls Club in Franklin. Tom Charbono, T.J.'s father and site director for Franklin, opened the club for the first time on Thursday, January 2, 2014, and said they're open Monday through Friday after school until 6 p.m.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Bob Carter, left, director of operations for Boys and Girls Clubs of greater Concord, throws his hands in the air after T.J. Charbono, 6, right, scroed a goal during a fooseball game at the new Boys and Girls Club in Franklin. Tom Charbono, T.J.'s father and site director for Franklin, opened the club for the first time on Thursday, January 2, 2014, and said they're open Monday through Friday after school until 6 p.m. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

A new branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Concord more than a year in the making opened in Franklin yesterday, giving kids and parents there a new option for safe after-school programs and summer camps.

“I’m really delighted about this, I know a lot of the folks that have been working on this project for a number of months trying to raise the necessary funds to do this, and I’m really very excited about it,” Mayor Ken Merrifield said.

The new club is run out of St. Gabriel’s Parish Center at 15 Elkins St., and will serve students from age 6 through middle school. Tom Charbono, a Franklin parent who helped bring the program to the city, will be the local director. Enrollment is low now, but Charbono hopes to eventually service about 50 children a week during the school year and host summer programs.

The push to start a Boys & Girls Club began in 2012, after Casey Family Services closed its after-school program in Franklin that served 90 children. That left Franklin with only one large after-school program run through the Recreation Department that serves about 50 kids. With about 460 elementary school children in the city, there was a clear demand for more programming, said Chris Emond, executive director of Concord’s club.

“Going into a place like Franklin is the perfect fit for us because we really want to be in areas that don’t have a lot of services,” he said.

After hearing from community members who were looking for other options, Charbono and his wife helped form an advisory committee that first approached the Lakes Region’s Boys & Girls Club about starting a Franklin chapter. They liked the thought of bringing in a national program that had structured mentoring and leadership programs, Charbono said.

Early last year, the committee began fundraising and received an overwhelming amount of support from local businesses, including the Franklin Elks and Rotary clubs. In total, they’ve raised nearly $30,000. But this fall, after months of fundraising and planning, the Lakes Region club backed out because it had too many other initiatives going on, Charbono said.

The committee considered starting its own entity rather than working with an existing club, but that would’ve taken much longer and the members hoped to move quickly. Concord’s club, which also operates in Allenstown, Hopkinton and Warner, swiftly stepped in to fill the gap.

“It’s been on the fast track ever since then,” Charbono said.

The new program will run from after school – 2:30 p.m. for middle school students and 3:30 p.m. for elementary school students – until 6 p.m. or earlier, based on when parents pick up their children. On snow days, such as yesterday, the program is open all day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The program has two rooms in the church, one dedicated to homework and one for activities including big-screen TVs, a foosball table and games. It also has access to the gym and kitchen.

Boys & Girls Clubs focus programming on a mix of academics and activities. When the students first arrive, for example, they’ll have roughly half an hour to eat snacks, relax and play games. Then there is a “power hour” of homework time, Charbono said. The rest of the evening is focused on activities, such as basketball games in the gym or playing trivia. Boys & Girls Club programs also stress healthy living and leadership development, among other things.

“When you go in there and start working with the kids, it’s very satisfying because the kids definitely appreciate what’s going on there,” Emond said.

Charbono said they’re eager to “utilize the whole community,” as volunteers or mentors. Right now there will be two full-time employees, including Charbono, but that may increase based on participation.

Applications for the after-school program are available at concordkids.org or by calling 224-1061. Membership fees are determined by family income.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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