In a move aimed at maintaining local control and focus, one of three local Boys & Girls Clubs of America affiliates has broken from the national organization after operating as a part of it for 60 years.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Macomb and Oakland Counties is now operating as Metro Detroit Youth Clubs.
“We are seeing strategic moves among numerous national nonprofits to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions, and while there are benefits that drive those decisions, there can be drawbacks and negative implications that impact local donors and organizations that were built on generous local support and commitment,” President and CEO Brett Tillander said.
As the organization met with stakeholders, one powerful perspective that emerged time and again was the value of a local focus, he said. Donors not only committed to maintaining their support for the organization, several increased their support.
“We have really enjoyed our relationship with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, but part of our goal is to make sure we’re focused on what we’re doing in the next era of our organization,” Tillander said.
“For us to have … local control and focus on local impact, this evolution of us emerging as Metro Detroit Youth Clubs became the path forward.”
The name change will also differentiate the nonprofit from Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and Boys & Girls Club of Troy, helping to alleviate confusion among donors and other supporters, he said.
“We are the only … Metro Detroit Youth Clubs. There’s no confusion.”
While its name has changed, the organization’s focus on serving youth ages 6-18 has not, Tillander said. It’s still providing literacy and other academic support, career exploration, fitness and sports programs and programs to build character, leadership and civic engagement.
Metro Detroit Youth Clubs is operating on a $1.6 million annual budget with seven full-time and 38 part-time employees at four sites in Royal Oak, Ferndale, Southfield and Washington Township.
In September, the nonprofit will open a fifth club — its first in Wayne County — at Durfee Innovation Society, a multi-tenant supportive services and job training center housed in a repurposed school building in central Detroit.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, which plans to launch a pilot adult and entrepreneur membership program this week at a Detroit club, historically has operated sites in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Last year, it shuttered sites in Shelby Township and Ypsilanti and closed a Detroit location over safety issues. According to its website, it has eight remaining locations, half located in local schools. Four of the clubs are in Detroit, and three others are in outer Wayne County in Belleville, Highland Park and Romulus. It has one remaining club in Oakland County, in Auburn Hills.
There were no geographical territories assigned by Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America, so the nonprofit could have gone into Wayne County sooner, Tillander said. But it hadn’t yet been asked.
“In every location, we were invited … when Life Remodeled approached us, we were ready to accept that,” he said.
Opening in the Durfee center presented “an excellent opportunity to align with them, the neighborhood and the other Durfee tenants committed to serving the community,” Tillander said.
With 1,100 K-12 students attending school right next door at Durfee Elementary-Middle School and Central High School, the club is ideally located, he said.
There are low literacy rates among Durfee students, Tillander said, and high chronic absenteeism among students in the high school.
Teens comprise about 40 percent of Metro Detroit Youth Clubs’ total membership, he said. Teenagers have totaled 5,034 of the nonprofit’s members since 2010. None among them participated in a pregnancy while engaged with the club, and all but one either graduated from high school or earned their GED, Tillander said.
At Durfee, Metro Detroit Youth Clubs expects to provide programs for about 240 students each day, Tillander said.
Linda Nabers, who led the club’s Southfield location since 2010, will serve as director of the Durfee club.
Tillander said Metro Detroit Youth is also in the process of hiring 15 employees overseeing programs, all but one part time, and raising $750,000 to outfit the new club. A $250,000 challenge grant from Garden Fresh founder Jack Aronson — a member of Metro Detroit Youth’s board — and his wife Annette has helped spur support from the Children’s Foundation and others, Tillander said.
To bolster support for students, Oakland University is establishing a presence within Metro Detroit Youth Club’s footprint at Durfee. OU students and staff will provide academic support, homework assistance and mentoring to the club’s young members. And the Oakland County university’s student sports teams, many with student athletes who grew up in the city, will provide sports clinics for the younger students.
“We have found that when our club members connect with role models … and they see they are going to school and having come from places like they are in, it inspires them,” Tillander said.
“It’s an opportunity for them to see a world that’s beyond their experience.”
One of OU’s goals is community outreach, said Glenn McIntosh, vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer.
“When we look at the population we want to serve, it’s certainly youth.”
OU can provide tutoring in literacy, mathematics and reading, said McIntosh, who is also a member of Metro Detroit Youth Clubs’ board of directors.
Those volunteer efforts “will be able to galvanize our employee base, as well as students,” he said.
The university’s athletic teams already do community work in Pontiac, McIntosh said. Their efforts at Durfee will be an extension of that.
“It’s good experience for the student athletes as well as the opportunity to connect with young people and be a positive role model.”
As an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Metro Detroit Youth Clubs benefited from marketing and powerful brand awareness campaigns, Tillander said.
As an independent nonprofit, “we’ll have to focus significantly on our marketing and branding,” he said.
Several local agencies are providing pro bono marketing, branding and communications assistance, including: Ideation Orange, Midcoast Studio, Group Ex and CKC Agency.
Whether an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America or independent, Metro Detroit Youth Clubs will do a good job of serving kids, providing quality programs and a safe place for youth to thrive, said Jeff Evans, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Troy. “That’s the most important thing.”
“We still plan on staying in touch and partnering with them as we have in the past,” Evans said.