The Christopher Family Foundation is pleased to partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago to open their first newly-built club in a generation on Chicago’s West Side – the Rusu-McCartin Boys & Girls Club! Julie Christopher and Carla Land, Program Associate, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, August 18, 2023.
The youth in Austin and the surrounding communities will benefit greatly from having this safe and supportive space to learn and grow. The three-story, 27,000+ square foot facility is beautifully and thoughtfully designed to meet the many needs of its young club members. The ceremony was held on the first floor in the gym, which features an NBA-sized basketball court. Throughout the building, ample classrooms and meeting spaces with cheerful colors create an appealing atmosphere for learning. On the rooftop sits Mimi’s Meadows (named after the former BGCC President and CEO, Mimi LeClair), a garden that facilitates a natural learning lab with an amazing view of the city.
The Club created a space for youth to engage in the culinary arts and learn about nutrition; it has been named The Christopher Family Teaching Kitchen. “Given our family’s belief in the restorative power of preparing and enjoying food—for nourishment AND community building—we think the new teaching kitchen is a perfect spot to recognize our support of the Rusu-McCartin Boys & Girls Club, and are honored to be acknowledged in this way,” said Julie Christopher.
Among the many speakers celebrating the new club, perhaps the most salient voices were those of the two youth. Prior to launching this project, the Club’s leadership established a Youth Council to gain input on the building’s design and programming. Jametria stated, “I know this club will make a big difference in the lives of kids like me on the West Side because it has already made a big difference in my life. Before becoming Council President, I was so nervous about our elections, but being on the Council gave me the confidence I needed to use my voice.” Then Michael shared, “I was part of the Club’s first-ever summer camp! It was an exciting experience where I made new friends, [enjoyed] music, and played sports.”
Notably, the Rusu-McCartin Club is next door to Chicago’s new Joint Public Safety Training Academy. The Club hopes this will create an opportunity to build bridges between the youth and the police.
Through the generosity of George and Cindy Rusu, and Bart McCartin and Katie Sakach, the Club will provide high-quality activities and impactful experiences to thousands of young people. It will be a community asset for decades. McCartin is the Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and the Rusus have been significant supporters of the Club for years.
For more information and photos, you can read the press release here.
—Contributed by Carla Land, Program Associate