In honor of Black History month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick visited the Dunbar Family and Community Center in Springfield Thursday, which recently merged with the YMCA.
The Dunbar Center has served families in the predominantly minority Mason Square neighborhood since 1812, and was founded as a refuge for people who were excluded from other community organizations. After financial troubles mounted in the past year, the YMCA stepped in and offered to take over the facility, which is now called the Dunbar Y Family and Community Center. Governor Patrick spoke in a gymnasium full of children, parents and teachers about the importance of a sense of neighborhood and community.
"It's what the Dunbar Y is trying to teach you, that membership in a community is understanding the stake we have in each other, in our neighbor's dreams and struggles, as well as our own."
The Dunbar Y will offer athletic activities and organized team sports along with social and academic programs. Nick Henderson coordinates the Brothers United Mentoring Program for more than 70 boys between the ages of 12 and 14.
"Mentoring happens here at the dunbar, one on one mentoring, as well as in their schools. I would say mentoring is more important than the sports, it gives the kids a chance to interact with a positive role model in their life, an adult. Do they partake in sports when they're here? Yes, they do, but they also get help with homework, discuss life issues."
One staff worker told the audience that the center aims to keep children so busy after school that they're too exhausted to get into trouble on their way home.