Town scrambles as Wareham Boys and Girls Club announces pending closure

Apr 27, 2021

The Wareham Boys and Girls Club will close at the end of this week, following a decision by the organization’s parent company, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford.

The Wareham Boys and Girls Club provides a variety of community programs, including after-school programs and homework help, that many of the town’s parents and guardians — especially those whose jobs keep them at work after school lets out — rely on.

Officials expressed dismay at the news, and preliminary plans for alternatives to the Boys and Girls Club’s programs were discussed at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on April 27.

“At the end of the day, this is about the kids,” said Selectman Alan Slavin. “It’s very disturbing to see that something as important as a Boys and Girls club is just kind of thrown to the side.”

Selectman Patrick Tropeano said officials in town had expected the Wareham branch of the Boys and Girls Club — located at 13 Highland Ave. in Onset — to close for years. 

“It’s just terrible what they’re doing,” Tropeano said of the larger New Bedford chapter. “This is just a travesty, and anything we can do to put it back together is a good thing.” 

Wareham Tigers President Jared Chadwick read a letter during the meeting that summarized the Tigers’ challenges with using the Wareham Boys and Girls Club location for competition cheerleading. Chadwick said the Tigers had struggled with the organization since 2018.

Recently, Chadwick said the Wareham location had almost no resources due to “lack of support from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford.” He noted that the Wareham location lacked Microsoft Word, internet access for kids to complete their schoolwork and cleaning supplies for the covid era.

Davide Ferrari, a pastor at the Bridge Church in Onset, said it was possible that the church could step in to “maintain the status quo” for a bit. 

“After hearing everything going on, and being concerned for the parents whose lives are going to be significantly impacted by this after this week — the church could potentially swoop in here and try to keep this operational for a period of time,” Ferrari said. 

He said the church might be able to help keep programs available for “maybe six weeks — for the rest of the school year.” 

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan reported that Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said she was looking into the issue, and that Geoff Swett, representing the Gleason Family YMCA, offered support as well. 

Sullivan also said someone had reached out to the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club “to see if we can fall under their umbrella.” He expressed frustration over the situation, saying that it “seemed like there was an effort to push everybody away” even as people tried to help the Wareham chapter. 

“To do that to the families in this community — the working families that need their jobs, that maybe just got back to their jobs — it’s pretty horrific,” Sullivan said.

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum said the issue of how to move forward and continue providing programs in the future would be on the Selectmen’s agenda next week (May 4) or the week after (May 11).

“A lot of people are interested in it; a lot of people want to figure out how to provide those services,” he said. “So I think it’s very important that we take it right up.”