Mar 29, 2017

Boys & Girls Club's mentoring program answers an urban need



Message comes from a man who knew trouble, and turned away from it

By Leigh Hornbeck


Jerry Ford found trouble early. He was in and out of jail and served time in prison. When his oldest son was born, Ford started getting his life together — achieving a college degree and a job with the state."It took me awhile to come into myself," Ford said. "But when Jerry was born I knew I had to figure it out. I didn't want my son to look up to anyone else but me, his father, as a role model."Today, Ford is a role model for his three children, as well as hundreds of others at the Troy Boys & Girls Club. A mentoring program he started as a response to gun violence called "The Block Center," has reached more than 75 teens in Troy. In October, Maytag, a Boys & Girls Club corporate sponsor, recognized Ford's work with a $20,000 grant. He was one of only 12 recipients nationwide. Ford was presented with the award Oct. 13 at a gala at Franklin Plaza on 44th Street. He and the Troy Boys & Girls Club staff are still working out what they will do with the grant money, but Ford said it will include a financial literacy program and more field trips for Troy kids. Ford hopes to someday bring students to Washington so they can see how government works.Ford started volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club four years ago when his sons, now 13 and 10, started going. Ford's wife, Elvira, also volunteers. She's there on Friday nights so teens can play basketball, swim and eat a home-cooked meal. The couple also has a 2-year-old daughter.

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Get connected: Troy Boys and Girls Club: For more information on the or to volunteer, call (518) 274-3781 or go to


Ford said he sees a lot of kids, some being raised by relatives, as he was, some who have already been in trouble with the law."They feel they have barriers to success in front of them they can never get over," Ford said. "We want our youth to develop good character. They need guidance, role models and mentorship. They need people outside of their families who care about them."It helps when the kids see volunteers who do it for free, he said, just because they want to get a message across: even though you may stumble, you can get up again.The work has been gratifying. In the first three weeks of this fall's session at the Block Center, 30 teens have attended each week — not just the core group, but friends of friends who hear about it.Ford's message is powerful because it comes from a man who knew trouble, and turned away from it."I give them me, raw and uncut, transparent. They look at me and say, 'if he can do it, I can do it.'"

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    Mar 29, 2017

    Local businesses donate time and materials to renovate 7th Avenue center By Jennifer Patterson, Capital Region Gives From left: Zac Carney, owner of Tec Protective Coatings with Troy Boys & Girls Club CEO Pat Doyle and Nick Sestito of T&J Electrical Associates in the newly-painted club entrance on 7th Avenue in Troy. (Christopher Lisio/Special to the Times Union) Collaboration is the name of the game at Troy Boys & Girls Club. Earlier this month, club CEO Pat Doyle reached out to local businesses for help renovating the building at 1700 7th Ave. The renovations include new color-coordinated walls and electrical upgrades to keep pace with growing technological needs, including an updated computer lab and new walk-in cooler/freezer in the kitchen area. Demolition, materials and labor were donated by three Capital Region companies. Doyle was able to secure grant funding for much of the remaining work. "All the walls are blue or white, which are the club's colors," said Doyle, who grew up in South Troy. "It feels fresher in here already, which fits with the project theme of Bright Futures, to go along with our motto — Great Futures Start Here. "Doyle went to the Troy Boys & Girls Club as a kid and continued his involvement as a work-study student at Hudson Valley Community College. After serving as program and site director for 14 years, he took over as CEO three years ago. His focus is on building partnerships in the community to further the club's mission. More Information Something for everyone - The Troy Boys & Girls Club offers numerous programs, including one that feeds hundreds of children. For information, go to . Cristo Demolition donated its services to help clean up the building. Zac Carney, owner of TEC Protective Coatings, donated paint and materials while members of his crew volunteered their time to paint the interior. Nick Sestito, service manager/partner at T&J Electrical Associates, and his crew upgraded power to several rooms and replaced the fluorescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting. Labor and materials were donated. Work continues downstairs after the installation of power lines to a space off the kitchen, in preparation to build a walk-in freezer and a cooler next month.That work is being funded through a $15,000 Hannaford Foundation Grant, but Sestito's donation of labor is key to the success of the club's food program, which prepares more than 600 meals each day for the Troy site and a handful of others. "It's incredible what this small staff is able to do," said Sestito, a North Troy native and member of the club's board of directors. "I joined the board because Pat makes you want to step up and do good. "Doyle said he believes in the power of collaboration, and that buying food collectively nets a cheaper price, enabling the program to reach children who wouldn't receive an after school meal otherwise. The freezer will allow the club to store more food at even better prices. In addition to the food program, the club provides programming for children and teens, including a fashion club (in partnership with the Arts Center of the Capital Region), a reading club, teen lounge, summer camps, drama, dance, technology, mentoring, news and moving making, sports, music, cooking and a power hour for homework. There's also a five-lane swimming pool, which could become a popular spot this summer if the city's plan to close public pools is implemented. Doyle said the club is working on new programs with community partners, some of which are still in the planning stages. "You can come here from age 4 to 19," Doyle said. "We're a hub for everyone and give the kids options, which creates a sense of belonging." • @JenSPatterson • 518-454-5340
  • Admin
    Mar 29, 2017

    By Jorja Roman TROY, N.Y. -- Community and law enforcement leaders in Troy honored Martin Luther King Jr.'s life Monday through a special workshop promoting conversations of positive relationships between the police department, youth and all residents in the city of Troy. “Everybody here has a voice,” said Troy PBA President Aaron Collington. Each voice was heard loud and clear on Monday at the Troy Boys and Girls Club. The event was held to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. “He had a dream so that he could inspire others to have dreams for today,” said 13-year-old Alexis Scott. Community leaders in Troy are showing youth how his message still holds true. “We know that his principles were nonviolence and justice and that’s what we stand for,” said Deacon Jerry Ford, a founder of The Block Center. It’s an effort to improve relationships between police officers and youth. “The things that are going on throughout the country tend to make them fearful of coming to approach the police department, and we need to make sure that they know they can come and talk to a police officer if they’re in any trouble,” said Collington. Each word spoken is one step toward reaching the goal of improving the lives of people of all ages. “Just not to get stagnant and be satisfied with where we are. To keep making sure things keep going forward,” said Collington. Leaders say this is one of many events they do throughout the year to inspire youth to get involved in the community.