WOON Boys & Girls Club

Boys & Girls Club of Northern Rhode Island Chief Development Officer Marissa Tuccelli and President and CEO Gary Rebelo stand in the new Woonsocket clubhouse that’s currently under construction at 600 Social St. The club is anticipating a fall opening. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – Ten months after breaking ground, the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Rhode Island is making headway on its new Woonsocket clubhouse and expects to hold a grand opening in October.

Construction is underway at 600 Social St., the former home of the Woonsocket Health & Racquetball Club. BGCNRI President and CEO Gary Rebelo said the organization is looking forward to expanding its programs in the new and larger space.

“The potential of this building, you could see an average daily attendance in this building of several hundred kids a day,” he said.

This week, the club announced a $2.1 million endowment from the Davis Dauray Family Fund, the largest gift in the organization’s history. The donation will be used to fund new and expanded arts programs at the new location, including larger visual arts, art therapy, photography and set design programs, a new family paint night program and a new art director position.

The gift is courtesy of California-based philanthropists Alan Davis and Mary Lou Dauray in honor of her parents, Charles and Lucille Dauray. Dauray, an artist and Woonsocket native, has deep roots in the community. Along with her parents, she traces her lineage through her great-uncle, Msgr. Charles Dauray, the priest known for his roles in the founding of Mount Saint Charles Academy and Precious Blood Parish.

“I grew up in Woonsocket when this city was a leader in the textile industry, of which my parents Charles and Lucille Dauray were a part,” she said in a press release. “This seems like a perfect way to honor them: a gift that can foster creativity and personal and artistic growth in the community.”

Rebelo said the art and design program is just one of the club’s offerings that will be expanded in the new space. Along with a dedicated art room, the building will feature a learning kitchen, music room, recording studio, STEAM enrichment room, food pantry, tech center and lounge. It will also include a basketball half-court, laundry facilities, office space and an Exergame Fitness space featuring interactive workout equipment.

“All of that is stuff we do now, but now it’s on a grander scale,” he said during a tour of the building this week.

Outside, an area that was once the health club’s pool has been filled in to make way for another basketball half-court, play area and community garden.

According to Marissa Tuccelli, BGCNRI chief development officer, the project has benefited from strong relationships with a number of community partners, including the Champlin Foundation, Cox Communications, CVS and Navigant Credit Union. After launching a capital campaign last year, the organization has raised $1.64 million and plans to continue fundraising in the coming months.

The Woonsocket clubhouse is currently located in the former Kendrick Avenue School, an approximately 120-year-old schoolhouse off Cumberland Street. Rebelo said the BGCNRI closed on the new property in January of 2020 after several months of searching for a new location. It was Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, he said, who introduced the organization to the real estate investors hoping to market the former health club as a commercial property.

“Everyone agrees this is absolutely needed,” he said.

After breaking ground last November, club leaders were hoping to open the space this summer but instead are anticipating a fall opening. They’re also about $1.2 million over their original expected budget of $3.3 million, an increase Rebelo said was partly due to the rising cost of construction materials and partly due to design changes. An HVAC system, originally slated for repair, will now get a full replacement as part of the project.

“With COVID, it was definitely a wise investment,” he said.

The next steps include completing duct work and installing beams across the former racquetball courts to increase the building’s square footage. Once complete, they expect to relocate their programs as quickly as possible to the new space.

“It’s pretty exciting. I can’t wait for it to be done,” Rebelo said.

“We know these next couple months are crucial,” Tuccelli added.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.