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Over thirty years ago, three members of our community looked at the streets of Bridgeport and saw that from a child’s eyes, there was little or no hope of a bright future growing up on the East Side of Bridgeport. Jersey barriers were erected by the police to try to stem the flow of drugs into the neighborhood, creating a concrete maze of blocked off streets and cop cars. Gangs ruled the neighborhood and roamed the streets in search of young recruits. It was clear that youth needed a space all their own, a safe place to go to every day where they could be accepted by all, and mentored by members of the community who cared about their well-being and who would give them total support.

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An empty building, falling apart and unused, was a space big enough to provide a safe place for kids. So those three community members solicited funding from General Electric to renovate it, and it was named the McGivney Community Center. That first year, 50 children attended our summer program, coming to McGivney to engage in positive activities and receive educational support.

Now, 29 years later, McGivney serves more than 400 youth on a regular basis. We offer after-school and evening programs during the school year, and run camps during the summer. Our mission is to provide stimulating and enriching programs that foster academic success and self-esteem, and to provide an environment that nurtures children’s intellectual, creative, and physical growth.

As we’ve grown, many of our members have grown with us. Staff that started working fifteen years ago with the intention of giving back to the community are still with us, and many former members have become volunteers or staff as they grew older. We even have a former McGivney member giving back by serving on our Board of Directors. We have had the opportunity to watch struggling elementary school students become successful middle school students, and then become volunteers at the Center during high school. These students have participated in our summer camp as counselors-in-training, and many have gone on to apply to and attend college.

It has become clear that McGivney’s purpose is not just to serve members now; rather, our purpose is to serve members now and in the future, and to provide them with a safe place in which to grow, discover their talents, and create long-lasting changes in their lives.

As we continue to grow, our potential grows as well. We are constantly coming up with new ideas for the Center and implementing new programs. The continued growth of the Center is made possible through the dedicated work of our staff and volunteers, and also through donations and support from outside groups. Through activities that nurture youth so that they can succeed in school and beyond, we will continue to provide positive messages about staying in school and encourage all members to not just graduate high school, but graduate college-ready.