Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island, Woonsocket Clubhouse, receives funding from Amgen Foundation

Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island, Woonsocket Clubhouse, receives funding from Amgen Foundation

WOONSOCKET – The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island has received a $35,000, two-year grant from Amgen Inc. to fund the Club’s work in advancing racial and social justice through programs at its Woonsocket Clubhouse.

Amgen is a global biotechnology company with a manufacturing plant in West Greenwich, and recently announced a $7.5 million commitment to support racial justice and equal opportunity, where Amgen operates.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island is a youth guidance agency for children and youth ages 5 to 18, with a mission “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”

At its Woonsocket and Cumberland Clubhouses and through community outreach, organizers say the Club strives to provide a positive environment with programs and services focusing on three core areas – academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and citizenship – that are integral to Northern Rhode Island youth.

“We often look back at speeches from the civil rights movement and realize not much has changed. The current environment this year pushed social injustice and racial disparities to the forefront and sparked outrage in our youth. With that outrage, they need adult guidance to help them navigate and gain understanding. We must work together to help dismantle long standing systems, put in place to keep certain races and classes down in this country,” said Bonnie Piekarski, unit director of the Woonsocket Clubhouse.

“With this grant, we will be able to continue the work of healing a hurting community. For our youth, the lack of representation in a community can lead to long-term self-esteem and self-worth issues. Not seeing oneself in leadership positions can make one believe that ‘they cannot do it,’ or ‘that it is not for them.’ Together, we all win,” said Piekarski.

The Club addresses social justice and equality topics by weaving them into its core and special programs, creating opportunities that specifically address these issues, and making it part of the daily conversation at the Clubhouse, organizers said. During program sessions, staff and members have discussed such subjects as systematic racism, colorism, prejudice and police interactions. In addition, the Clubhouse recently ran a forum with teenaged members and local law enforcement. Youth were able to ask them a series of questions regarding racial issues and police violence, where they could feel safe doing so. As part of community outreach, staff also ran a series of members’ parent events regarding racial inequality in health care, with an entire segment dedicated to African American women’s health care and the high rates of death in childbirth.

On a daily basis (prior to COVID guidelines and regulations), more than 170 children and youth attend programs and services at the Woonsocket Clubhouse. Because the Clubhouse is at capacity and in order to reach more kids, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island recently purchased and is renovating a larger building at 600 Social St. in Woonsocket. This new facility will have triple the capacity of the current Kendrick Street location and is expected to open in the fall of 2021.