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  • Paul Van Nest


The Boys and Girls Club began as an adjunct program offered in the city’s north end by The Community Council of North Kingston. Financed primarily by government grants for youth employment and without wider community support, its future was in jeopardy. This is when the Rotary Club of Kingston stepped in.

On the recommendation of a committee made up of past presidents, the Rotary Club of Kingston voted in 1990 to take on a substantial fundraising campaign to establish a Boys & Girls Club in the city. Under the presidency of Ron Southward and the chairmanship of Reg Shadbolt, our club committed to raise $300,000 over five years.

The B&G Club opened its doors in 1992 with after-school programs in three elementary schools. While there was some office space at Queen Street United Church, there was no home-base for staff, volunteers, or the kids. Rotarians had continued to help secure funding to sustain the programs, but fundraising kicked into high gear when the former Robert Meek Public School on Bagot Street became available.

Capital Campaign Co-Chairs, Ron Brown and Reg Shadbolt, leaned on every possible shoulder – individuals and businesses – to purchase the school and pay for upgrades to the building. In January 1999, the Boys and Girls Club opened the doors of its new home - the Robert Meek Community Youth Centre. When the new centre was opened, Harold Parsons was hired as Program Director. Today, Harold is the Executive Director and, as such, has been the key person in the evolution and success of the Boys & Girls Club in Kingston.

Since the beginning, Rotarians have contributed in countless ways to the Boys & Girls Club including sitting on the Board of Directors, fundraising, volunteering, and establishing the supper program and a foundation. Most recently, the 14th annual Cheers the Beef campaign raised $4,000, which helps to fund over 1,500 after-school meals every week.

As a Millennium project in the year 2000, the three Kingston Rotary clubs raised $40,000 to refurbish the school’s gym - Rotary Hall - where Rotarian Barry O’Connor also started a community basketball league. The Kingston-Frontenac Rotary Club helped to landscape the outdoor play area. Bill Egnatoff of the Queen’s Faculty of Education and a member of the Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club helped design the education centre that would then become a model for other Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada.

Another Centennial project involves the naming of the Rotary Reading Room in the Reg Shadbolt Learning Centre. The Centre was named appropriately in honour of Rotarian Reg’s outstanding contribution to the Boys and Girls Club over many years.

The Boys & Girls Club currently has 4,740 members between the ages of 4 and 18 who take part in the after-school programs at eight locations across the region. Rotarians are so proud of our role in the inception of the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and Area, our part in its growth, and its sustainability.

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