Community center72The center is to be housed at the corner of Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Bridge Avenue in a building that was once a bar and more recently served as the Count Basie Learning Center.

Last week, after more than 18 months of discussion, the Red Bank Council unanimously directed the borough attorney to come up with a contract under which the Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County would launch and run a community center on the West Side.

redbankgreen did an email interview with the Robert Taylor, chief professional officer of the Asbury Park-based club, about the project.

Read on to learn what’s in the works.

Taylor, robert2Robert Taylor appears at a Red Bank Council meeting in October 2007.

What’s your vision for this facility? What do you want it to do?

The facility is a Community Center, it will provide a safe place for
children to go after school and during non-school hours. The building is an
oasis, staffed with trained professional youth workers and caring adults.

In terms of space, you haven’t got a lot to work with. The building has no gym, no pool, not a lot of space — you’ve got ten
times the space in Asbury Park. Doesn’t that severely limit the number of
kids you can reach and the ways in which you might engage them?

How many youth are being engaged now? Its not what the building doesn’t
have, its what it can offer, and what it has been for the community over the
past 20 or so years. The spaces available can house a game room, computer
lab, meeting room, homework and quiet games room, cooking classes and
nutrition programs. We will engage youth with proven national BGCA
programs. Clubs are run successfully in many different kinds of facilities.

We will also collaborate with programs to provide youth with access to gym
activities, and we will conduct outings.

What about the absence of parking or even a dropoff/pickup zone — how
might you address that? 

We have designated the Bridge Avenue side entrance as the main check in and
checkout area. The drop off and pickup area is in front of that entrance.

We have no parking lot in Asbury Park. Most of the parking needed is for
large group basketball games and swim meets. We won’t have those at this

It seems that as discussion of this project went on, the community center
idea evolved from one for all the kids of Red Bank to one mostly for West
Side kids, children whose parents wouldn’t allow them to walk even a few
blocks farther east to the Community YMCA. Which is the club’s higher
priority, having a townwide outreach or targeting West Siders?

Our mission and main focus is to provide services to youth that cannot
access traditional recreation programs because of economic hardship. We have
a special concern for youth that come from difficult circumstances that put
them at risk. We will be able to provide services for all Red Bank youth.

Do you see this as a program that might grow into a more expansive one?
Is that important?

We think based on the community needs that we can grow
the program to meet those needs as they relate to our mission.

How do you measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing? By your own
standards, what grade would you give the Asbury Park operation?

We conduct a program impact assessment and an organizational self evaluation
using “standards of organizational effectiveness” (SOE). We use a tracking
system to help measure outcomes and impact. We also have pre- and post-testing in many of our programs that measure short-term outcomes.

We just
completed a long-range strategic plan. In that plan we measured ourselves
against four other organizations in the county that we consider competitors
(probably the largest). The analysis, conducted by a consultant, showed that
we measure up and rank highest in a number of categories. Boys & Girls Clubs of America rated us as
a high operational to advancing Club.

The Boys & Girls Club has offered to do this at no expense to the borough
other than the costs of keeping the lights and heat on and other building
expenses, correct? Yet I believe you estimated that programming costs would
come to $340,000 a year. How do you swing that?

That’s correct. We have already secured funding to help with the expansion
of services. We will raise the operating funds through grants, individual
contributions, and program generated funds.

Can you give us a ballpark opening date and what programs you might be ready
to start with? Which ones might follow?

No, the opening of this facility
requires some work and many equipment needs. The town has to finish going
through the steps they need to do. Then we will work with them on an
opening. We will work with the Council and the community to open the

Based on what I know today, probably September. We will do some
programming with Red Bank youth this summer regardless of the facility.

If programs are oversubscribed, how do you decide who gets in? Is there a
sibling preference?

We will not turn any child away that wants to attend
this program.

What about staffing — will you be hiring, and if so, how many and in what

We will be hiring. We will be looking for people that have
youth work experience. My experienced Senior team will implement and train
staff as required by our standard operating procedures and NJ State
childcare regulations.

Will you be running the facility? If not you, who?

I will be there and some
of my other experienced staff will be at the facility on a regular basis
until I either put one of my current staff there or someone new from a
similar field or another Boys & Girls Club.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Did you come from another field?

48 and I grew up in the Atlantic Highlands area. I started with Clubs
1985 in Venice, Calif., and when I came back to New Jersey I worked in
Paterson and was later executive director of the club in Passaic. I
came here in September, 2000 and I live in Middletown.

What would you say to Red Bankers who want to make this work — what
can they do to help?

People make the difference. There will be many levels of involvement that
the citizens of RB will be able to support.

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