The origins of the Boys & Girls Clubs can be traced to the early 20th century, a period when new immigrants were struggling to adjust to differences in language and culture. Poorer working parents were forced to leave children to fend for themselves in the streets and the crime rate was high. Facilities for health and personal hygiene were scarce. The need for providing children from these families with access to constructive activities and grow up as responsible individuals was great.
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What began as The Wilmington Community Service evolved into what is today the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware. The Wilmington Community Service (WCS) first met in 1919 with the goals of cooperating and coordinating the activities of existing community service agencies. Mrs. Coleman DuPont, President of WCS, said, “We owe every child a chance to play in a safe and happy environment.” The organization aimed to promote playgrounds for ‘wholesome recreation’ that included promoting ‘health, safety and character.’
At the October 26, 1924 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Wilmington Community Service, a committee consisting of Judge Nields, Chairman, Judge Prickett and Mr. John P. Root, Executive Secretary, was set up to draw up the constitution for the organization. The committee submitted a copy of the proposed constitution on April 2, 1925. A motion to send a copy to members of the Board for input before final adoption passed. The constitution was adopted on May 26, 1925.
According to the 1944-45 Boys Clubs of Wilmington Annual Report: “The Boys’ Club of Wilmington began its work in the fall of 1926 when the third floor of the Queen Theatre building on Market Street was rented and made into recreation rooms for boys. C.B. Root was in charge. The project was sponsored by Community Service. In December of 1927, the space was enlarged to include the fourth floor of the same building. By this time over 500 boys were members. The officers of the organization were: Mrs. Coleman duPont, President; Honorable John P. Nields, Chairman; and D.C. Aspril, Treasurer.”
In March, 1928, the offer made by the Boys’ Club Federation of America to provide a member of their staff to make a study of Wilmington to explore possibilities of a location for a permanent Boys’ Club headquarters was accepted. Accordingly, Mr. C.J. Atkinson, Executive Secretary of the Boys’ Club Federation of America, addressed the Board of Directors of the Community Service and informed them of the scope of work carried out by the organization. He encouraged the Community Service to expand the activities of the Boys’ Club work conducted on the third and fourth floors of the Queen Theatre Building in Wilmington. In September 1928, the Boys’ Club enrollment was 450. A total of 1592 children had enrolled in the various activities including Summer Playgrounds, Ukulele classes in public schools and sports activities.
In 1930, the club purchased 65 acres of land near Marshallton located about eight miles from the headquarters. Alfred Kamm, said in his 1945-46 report that the camp was called Camp Mattahoon, “after the Indian Chief from whom, it is said, the early settlers bought land which is now part of Wilmington.” Camp activities included craft shop, games and sports, woodcraft and nature, and riflery. Special events including camp fire programs and sports contests. “When it comes to fun, health building, self-development, learning of skills, knowledge and habits, there is nothing better than camping for a boy. More good guidance in behavior and attitudes can be offered a boy in two weeks of camping under proper leadership, than in practically a whole club season,” Kamm said in 1945-46 report.