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The Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys and Girls Club has long stood as a beacon for youth and families in the greater Jamestown area. For decades, the stately Maddox Mansion has risen up from Allen Street and beckoned citizens to walk up its steps, past its looming pillars, and through its double doors to find what they’re looking for: education, guidance, recreation, and community. This spring, in the club’s 78th year of operation, the Boys and Girls Club has crafted a new fundraiser to help keep its doors open for generations to come: a Country Showcase Benefit.
The Boys and Girls Club’s Country Showcase Benefit will be held Sunday, Apr. 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Celeron Legion in Jamestown. Attendees will have the chance to listen to four different live country bands, enjoy food and drink, and be entered in a drawing to win some serious door prizes. Tickets for the event cost just $10.
“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were a lot of country jamborees around, and I always liked going to them,” said Gary Loll, board treasurer of the Boys and Girls Club. “Then last year, I went to a jamboree out in Olean. I sat there thinking, I’ve got to be able to do this in Jamestown. Nobody is doing anything like this anymore.”
According to Loll, the club had been looking for a third fundraiser to add to its annual campaigning agenda. The Boys and Girls Club holds a ladies’ golf tournament in the summer and a holiday drawing event in the winter, but because of recent funding cuts, the organization wanted to add a spring fundraiser. With Loll’s jamboree experience, his connections to local bands, and the area’s affinity for country music, he felt that a country music showcase might be exactly the right idea.
“It’s a different approach than we’ve used in the past, so there’s some kind of fresh excitement with the idea of the whole thing,” said Jeff Kroon, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club. “Gary has put a lot of effort into pulling this all together. We’re hoping for a successful event and a good fundraiser for the organization.”
Loll’s first task in arranging the benefit was recruiting local bands to fill the event’s show list. He quickly found that bands were eager to volunteer their talents for a good cause. Local country band Crossfire stepped forward to headline the show with a combination of original songs and traditional covers, also offering their talents and equipment to help manage the sound for the entire event. Following Crossfire’s opening performance will be the Bluegrass band Home Remedy, and then the traditional country band Rustic Ramblers. The benefit will close out with more country originals and covers performed by the Derek Davis Trio.
“The good reputation that the Boys and Girls Club has in the community has helped this come together quite easily,” Loll said. “Everyone’s jumped right on board and said, yes, we’ll do it.”
Community support for the event has poured in from more than just local bands, however. Businesses also stepped forward to contribute prizes for the benefit’s drawings. Acme Appliance donated a 40-inch Samsung television, Chautauqua Institution donated a season gate pass, and two tickets to Jim Gaffigan’s headlining performance at Lucy Fest this summer were anonymously donated. Winners of door prizes do not need to be present at the showcase to win.
“I wanted to get some really nice prizes, because I had this fear that I would put this event together and nobody would show up,” Loll said. “I wanted to give people who might not be interested in country music a reason to buy tickets anyways.”
Tickets for Sunday’s benefit can be bought at the door or purchased in advance at the Boys and Girls Club or Acme Appliance on East 2nd Street in Jamestown.
History of the Boys and Girls Club
While it may be hard to imagine a time when the Boys and Girls Club didn’t stand as a pillar in Jamestown’s community, 80 years ago, that was exactly the case. It was only in 1939 that the first rudimentary version of the club was born: the Jamestown Boys Club, founded by the Jamestown Rotary Club. Several years later, an independent but comparable organization was created when the Zonta Club of Jamestown founded the Jamestown Girls Club in 1946. For years, both clubs worked in a sort of tandem, pursuing similar missions to serve underprivileged youth, build character, and mold the citizens of tomorrow.
Then, in 1986, the two clubs finally recognized how often their efforts coincided and decided to merge into one powerhouse of an organization. With their combined staff and resources – and a new location at the Maddox Mansion – the Jamestown Boys and Girls Club offered an impressive array of resources and programs to encourage positive development among local youth. To this day, the club provides afterschool tutoring, homework assistance, and structured recreation, as well as programming for weekends, holidays, and summers.
“Programs and priorities evolve over time,” Kroon said. “What remains constant is our greatest natural resource: the hopes and aspirations of our youth.”
And the club is certainly capitalizing upon this natural resource: Kroon estimates that in 2016, the club served about 1,790 children and teenagers. Club members must pay a membership fee of $20 a year to access the facility and its programs, but many members cannot afford even that cost and end up obtaining scholarships. According to Loll, the Boys and Girls Club does not turn children away for financial reasons: he says that members are seen almost like family. An example of this can be found with the late Winifred Crawford Dibert, for whom the facility was re-dedicated in 2004. Dibert often frequented the Boys and Girls Club as a friend and advocate, and when she did so, she always referred to youth club members as her “kids.”
“All the programs that we run help discipline the youth, teach them values, and show them that life can really be good if they work at it,” Loll said. “That’s why we’re doing this benefit. So they always have a place to go.”
According to Loll, proceeds from this weekend’s benefits will go directly into a general operating fund for the Boys and Girls Club. This fund helps keep the Maddox Mansion up and running, covering costs for pool, gym, and general facility maintenance.
“It’s going to help keep our doors open,” Loll said.
For further details regarding the Country Showcase Benefit, or for more information on the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys and Girls Club of Jamestown, call the club at (716) 664-2902, check out their Facebook page, or visit their website at www.bgcjamestown.org.