Skip to content

Our Story

Home > About > Our Story

Stronger together: How four Clubs merged to create more opportunities for youth.

In 2019, Boys & Girls Clubs in Cleveland, the Western Reserve (Akron), Lorain County and Erie County merged to form Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio. It was the largest-ever merger of Boys & Girls Clubs in the United States.

While BGCNEO is young, its roots date back to 1954, when a group of corporate executives from Republic Steel (now ArcelorMittal) and Cliffs Natural Resources opened the first Boys Club in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. In 1976, the Club began to accept girls as members and became the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. This progressive step occurred 14 years before the national organization became the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

In Akron, the Boys & Girls Club of Summit County in 1984 was selected for a national demonstration project to test the feasibility of bringing Club programs into low-income housing areas. The organization later changed its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve.

In 1998, civic leaders in Sandusky saw the need for an afterschool program in the community. They formed Boys & Girls Club of Erie County, which opened its doors at the First United Congregational Church of Christ. In 2010, the Club opened a teen center on Cleveland Road in a building donated by the late Ruth F. Parker.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Lorain County got its start in 1999, when Mike Conibear transformed a small space in an Oberlin City Schools building into a Club. The organization expanded to Lorain, Elyria and other parts of the county before becoming part of BGCNEO in 2019.

Today, BGCNEO serves thousands of families throughout Northeast Ohio.

Kids who join a Club receive opportunities in athletics, art, music, career readiness, college scholarships and leadership. They get a free meal each day and help from caring adult mentors.

There is no cost to join.

Families benefit because parents can keep working with the knowledge that their children are in a safe, positive and cost-free place after school. Numerous studies show the 3-7 p.m. weekday hours are the times when kids are most likely to become victims of crime or get into trouble. That is when our doors are open, giving youth opportunities for growth, learning and fun.