Posted by Sue Jones on Jun 17, 2019
Pictured L to R: Doug Nelson, Jeff Kroon, President Katie and Rhonda Johnson
Today’s speaker is Jeffrey C. Kroon who has served as Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown’s Executive Director for the past 111 years and has been employed by the local Club a total of 34 years. A Jamestown High School and Jamestown Community College graduate, he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from SUNY Brockport in 1981 and later lived and studied in Sweden which led to teaching Swedish language classes at Jamestown Community College since 1985.
Volunteer community involvement includes 35 years with Jamestown Area Youth Soccer, serving as JAYS President for over 25 years. Jeff currently serves as President of the American Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, Treasurer of the Scandinavian Folk Festival and is a member of JCC’s Scandinavian Studies Program Advisory Board.
Recognized in 2018 with the Chautauqua Leadership Network’s Community Development Award, as a Jamestown Community College Distinguished Alumnus in 2004, the Chautauqua County Board of Realtors 1996 Citizen of the Year, the NYS Council of PTA’s Honorary Lifetime Member Award, SUNY Brockport’s 1981 Departmental Scholar Award and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1975.
Lifelong Jamestown residents, Jeff and his wife Kelly, an RN with UPMC Chautauqua, have two grown children, Krista, a licensed Physical Therapist in Port St. Lucie, FL and John, a geologist in Oklahoma City.
The Jamestown Boys Club was founded by the Rotary Club of Jamestown, NY in 1939 to build character in underprivileged boys. The cost to belong was 25cents per year.
Mrs. Lucille Wright founded the Jamestown Girls Club in 1947; which was long supported through the efforts of the local Zonta Club.
The Boys Club merged with the Girls Club in 1986 and the current home is at 82 Allen St. in the former Maddox Home. Additions and improvements to the Mansion over the years have created a facility which is unique as it is the only
Club with a swimming pool and all the activities that surround it. The first pool was built for $45,000 and 50 years later was rebuilt for $1.2 million. Adults may also use the pool at designated times for a small fee.
The Club also hosts an afterschool program with Jamestown Striders and the members can be partnered with tutors for help with homework and computer aided educational activities. There is also a well-equipped gym, arts and crafts, a game room and a well supervised space for young people to gather and simply talk. Membership today is $20 annually and the United Way campaign provides for scholarships for those who might need help.
Camp Hiak Tilikum, located on Curtis St. provides a space for outdoor experiences as well.
Jeff then gave us some case histories of some of the members and the situations they face in their home lives and the growth they have made in their lives by belonging to the Club and participating in its activities. Some of the children have only one parent, many brothers and sisters, move frequently, have no clean clothes or blankets, see parental abuse, drug abuse and have very little food in their homes. Of the 280 days the Club is open, these children may spend as many as 250 days at the Club. Staff at the Club provide support to these children in as many ways as possible when they learn the circumstances.
The Club does all that it can to instruct the children about personal safety as well as build character. Enrollment in 2018 was 1674 children from 5-18 (most are 10-14). 75 to 80% of these children are at risk and this year, the Jamestown Boys and Girls Club celebrates 80 years of giving these young people a safe place to go and learn to take advantage of opportunities.
Jeff and his small staff of 5-10 full-time and 20-25 part-time, plus many volunteers are doing a STELLAR job of providing for the needs of these children.