History of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties

The story of the Boys Club of Salem began on October 5, 1966 when Mr. George Mills, American Legion Post officer, contacted the Boys Clubs of America to discuss organizing a Boys Club in Salem. On December 19, 1967, the Boys Club was incorporated with Mr. Walt Karlson as President and a Board of Directors of 17 community leaders.

The Boys Club opened its doors in April 1970 under the leadership of Mr. Dean Schlosser, Executive Director. The first year of programs attracted 1,013 boy members, with an average daily attendance of over 80 boys per day. The Boys Club of Salem received its national charter from Boys Clubs of America on October 13, 1970.

As the organization grew and services were added, the Board of Directors voted to add girl participation in 1983. During the same year, the organization formally changed its name to the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties.

In 1985, the Boys & Girls Club restructured its operation to ensure its mission was similar to Boys & Girls Clubs of America Mission Statement and adjusted its operation from recreation based to guidance based.

During 1989, the Board of Directors conducted a $1.2 million Capital Drive to replace the aging clubhouse. The new 25,000 square foot facility opened in the spring of 1991 and was dedicated as the Knudson Boys & Girls Club Branch. Beginning in 1992, as a result of the charge of the existing Strategic Plan, the Boys & Girls Club began outreach programs at local schools and apartment complexes. These outreach efforts were the preliminary steps towards opening additional youth centers in local neighborhoods.

A partnership with the Salem-Keizer Public Schools established opportunities to place Boys & Girls Club youth centers on school property. The first such youth center was opened in 1994 on the Swegle School campus and was called the Swegle Boys & Girls Club Branch. This partnership continued in 1997 with the establishment of the Keizer Boys & Girls Club Branch located at Kennedy School, and in 2000 the Eastwood Boys & Girls Club Branch was opened on the Hoover School campus and the Richmond Extension was opened in the Richmond School.

As a result of the organization’s 1998-2001 strategic planning process, it was identified that the community needed additional programs specifically designed to meet the needs of Salem-Keizer teenagers. In September 2001, the Board kicked off a $1.45 million Capital Drive to expand the Knudson Branch by 11,000 square feet. The new addition was opened in May 2003 and dedicated as the Doris J. Wipper Teen Center.

In response to the organization’s strategic planning findings that too many local children were slipping through the cracks of basic health care, and with the support of the Murdock Charitable Trust, the Club opened its Health Services Center in 2006. Featuring three fully operable dental chairs, the Club’s Health Services efforts are designed to prevent health problems for area youth through educational programs and activities. Local partners of the Club’s Health Services Center include the Salem-Keizer School District, Northwest Medical Teams and a number of members of the local dental community.

In 2007, the Club broke ground on the West Salem Boys & Girls Club Branch, located across the street from Walker Middle School. The regional footprint was further expanded on December 28, 2010 when the Woodburn Teen Center was fully chartered and operational.