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Youth groups combine to better serve area’s children

ST. LOUIS – Sixty years ago, Monroe Smith stayed out of mischief by playing baseball for the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club. Thousands followed him in its mission of sports, education and personal development.

Now Smith, who lives in the Soulard neighborhood, says the Mathews-Dickey club’s recent merger with two similar groups will strengthen their ability to carry out their goals.

“I view this as a collaboration that should help all,” Smith said. 

The Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club officially merged with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis on Jan. 1. The move came after late October, when the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis announced a merger with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bethalto (Ill.).

Following the merger, the organization serves more than 10,800 children ages 6-18 at 12 different locations.  It is one of the area’s largest youth service agencies.

Flint Fowler, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis
“We’re combining the great things that they’ve done with the things that we do under one umbrella,” said Flint Fowler, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis.

The strengths of one of the former groups can be spread to other groups, Fowler said. “Mathews-Dickey has a wonderful history of being involved in sports,” he noted.

The power of the Girls & Boys Clubs is significant in the region as it seeks to give young people a better start in the region, Fowler said.

The combination will improve services for members, he said. Also, there will be better professional growth for staff, while helping fundraising and improving the back office.

Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club was founded by Martin Mathews and Hubert “Dickey” Ballentine in 1960.  The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis was established as the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Clubs in 1966 and went into operation in 1967.

The headquarters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis is at 2901 N. Grand Blvd. The Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club has its main building at 4245 N. Kingshighway Blvd.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis Teen Center of Excellence, 2901 N. Grand Blvd.
The two clubs in Missouri largely serve an under-resourced African-American membership, while the Bethalto club serves a primarily white membership.

Services include afterschool programs, summer camp, mentoring and teen programs.

“Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club has been an important part of the St. Louis community for 60 years, and our biggest contribution to this community are the children we have served,” Mathews said in a statement. “They are our biggest asset and I know that Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis shares our commitment to children and their development. Both clubs are committed to a future that focuses on our children that I strongly support.”  

The Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club name, location and youth sports programs will be preserved.

“We have been exploring partnership opportunities for a few years,” said LaVicki Hart, who was the chair of the Mathews-Dickey board before the merger. “We firmly believe that by joining forces the Mathews-Dickey Club and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis will bring their best features to the table and emerge as a powerful combined organization dedicated to the well being of the youth in our region.”

Smith was one of the original boys in the Mathews-Dickey club. He was in one of the baseball teams organized by his father, who formerly played in the Negro Leagues. When the club was formed in 1960, those teams joined with teams formed by Mathews-Dickey.

Smith said the merger could make things better.

“Mathews-Dickey was always a good place for us to play,” Smith said.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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