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CHICOPEE — To assist with the construction of a new teen center and support programming, the state Legislature provided a total of $120,000 in funds to the Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee.

On Dec. 5, state Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield), state Rep. Shirley Arriaga (D-Chicopee) and state Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield) presented two checks to the Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee Executive Director Jason Reed, along with other staff.

According to Gomez, the funding represents Chicopee’s share of the $3 million appropriated to the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Chicopee’s share is comprised of just over $70,000 from the state Legislature for the facility, as well as $50,000 for its new teen center. The funds will help provide detailed programming and extra support for children.

“Together these funds will allow the club to provide extra academic support to the kids they serve, many of whom are still trying to catch up due to the impact that COVID-19 had on their learning opportunities,” Velis said. “It will also support the club in building a new teen center that will have a tremendous impact on the services offered, including workforce development programming to help prepare teens for their futures.”

Gomez went off of Velis’ point, adding, “Children deserve a safe place to learn and grow. For many years, the Boys & Girls Clubs across our state have provided safe places for kids and teens. This was no different during the last few years despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He continued, “Clubs across the state stepped up to partner with their communities to ensure children, teens and their families received the support they needed. They also provided hundreds of thousands of meals to those in need, offered childcare to working families, and provided out-of-school-time and summer programming to keep kids and teens engaged socially and on-track academically.”

In October, The Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee announced a $3 million capital campaign to construct a new 4,500-square-foot building at 580 Meadow St.

According to Marketing and Development Director Lynn Morrissette, this funding also includes the reconstruction of the Boys and Girls Club parking lot and outdoor basketball court.

“The teen center will offer a safe place for teens. It will give them areas like a study zone, digital media lab, zen room, club cafe and a gaming den,” Morrissette said. “There will be a large focus on workforce readiness, as we work to prepare them [teens] for their futures.”

The need for a teen center stems from research and community surveys.

“A new teen center will allow for more kids to be involved,” Morrissette said.

She continued, “The current teens have been involved in the brainstorming of the design process to ensure we hear what teens are looking for in a new teen center.”

Currently in the first of three phases, the parking lot is being reconstructed, costing about $725,000. The funds were committed to the club by the city of Chicopee, which determined this project to be worthy of an investment of American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

Phase 2 will include construction of a new, concrete full court and half court, replacing an old asphalt full court. Morrissette said this phase will begin after “substantial completion” of the parking lot and be somewhat dependent on the weather.

The cost of that project is $150,000 and is being funded by Community Development Block Grants through the city of Chicopee.

The court will carry the name of late police officer Angela Santiago, in memory of her commitment to the young people in the city. Santiago, who served as Chicopee High School’s school resource officer, died in an off-duty motorcycle crash in 2020.

Morrissette shared that Phase 3 is the construction of the actual building. “We anticipate groundbreaking in late spring or early summer,” which is also dependent on the weather and previous phases, she said.
The entire construction is anticipated to last about seven to eight months.

The teen center will be called Haven, meaning a place of safety.

Arriaga was contacted for comment but did not respond as of press time.

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