By: The Holyoke Sun
A TURLEY PUBLICATION
HOLYOKE - Bruce E. Thompson, the late president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke And a 30-year member of the Boys and Girls Club of America, has been recognized as a Masters and Mentors recipient of the Academy of Boys and Girls Clubs Professionals. The selection was announced at the 103rd Annual Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Conference held in Atlanta, GA. Present to accept the award were Thompson's widow, Margaret and sons, Ryan and Patrick.
"Bruce was keenly aware of the needs of Holyoke," said John P Counter, who community,” said Counter. Was tapped by his predecessor to lead the local club upon his death and whonominated his friend for the award. " He brought the Boys and Girls Club mission into the toughest neighborhoods in the city through a partnership with the Public Housing Authority in 1989 and forged relationships with the mayor's office, the Police Department, the District Attorney's office, the Hampden County Sheriff's office and the Department of Youth Services.
"The partnerships that Bruce built and the funding he secured for the club throughout his tenure continue to impact the lives of thousands of children and will continue for many years through the purchase of the Mount Tom property which will be developed for the recreational and environmental use for the disadvantaged youth of the Holyoke community.” Said Counter. "Bruce also was committed to organized professional associations," continued Counter. "He served as President of the Massachusetts Alliance and Treasurer of the Western Massachusetts Chapter. Bruce's commitment to the Boys and Girls Club movement made it easy for him to help other clubs in our surrounding communities.
Those communities have been deeply influenced by Bruce Thompson. Much of Bruce's legacy is his career development and mentoring of Boys and Girls Club professionals."
"I grew up in a blue collar community," recalled Thompson in a January 2008 interview with the Sun. 'And ours was a blue collar family. We lived 3 miles from the Ludlow Boys Club and walk, run or ride my bike; I tried to get there every day." Born in Springfield, Thompson said his family "moved to Ludlow when I was 7. My father was a machinist at Smith and Wesson – just like a lot of other parents who lived in Ludlow and my mother was a secretary/bookkeeper for automobile dealerships and insurance companies." A 1965 graduate of Ludlow High School, Thompson enrolled at Springfield College from which he earned a B.S. degree in health and physical education in 1969. Then, he began to attend New York University.
'After being there for 9 months, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps," explained Thompson. "I entered as a 2nd lieutenant after Officer Candidate School." For the ensuing 3 years, he was a communications officer stationed in Southeast Asia. When honorably dis¬charged in 1972, he was a captain selectee. After his USMC discharge, Thompson worked in "an entry level position as physical education director at the Springfield Boys Club. I was there for two and one-half years." His next role was as executive director of the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club from 1975 to 1979.
In 1979, Thompson signed a 3-year contract with the Holyoke Boys Club. "Even though it was a 3-year contract, the board of directors had a chance to change administrators at the end of each year," explained Thompson. "They could give me either thumbs up or thumbs down."
As Thompson contemplated the "game plan" for Holyoke, he remembered the experiences gained during 20-week rotating internship near the end of his Springfield College education.
"In my senior year," recalled Thompson, "I had wonderful experiences in a variety of communities including Philadelphia, Harlem, Catskills NY, Providence RI, Boston, Rensselaer NY and Asbury Park NJ. Each provided a different view regarding the delivery of services to young people. To say the least, it was a diverse experience." Why did Thompson zero in on the Holyoke job?
"I didn't have to relocate, and that was important to Margaret, who was established in the Springfield Public Schools," said Thompson. "It was a larger club than that in West Springfield. There were lots of challenges and that motivates me. And, it was only a 3-year deal. Afterwards, I could go somewhere else, if I so desired.
"The challenges faced by the Holyoke Boys Club were financial as well as a great divide among board members," recalled Thompson. "There were the traditionalists who were strictly recreation-based and there were others who saw the club as a potential change agent." Given the experiences he gleaned from exposure to other clubs around the country, during his senior year at Springfield College, Thompson agreed with the assessment that the club could be "a social change agent.
"It is extremely important to revisit the Mission Statement every year," explained Thompson. "It states: `The Boys & Girls Club is committed to the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development of youth, with special concern for the disadvantaged, without discrimination. The Boys & Girls Club helps youth reach their full potential in order to develop the qualities needed to become responsible citizens and leaders...we serve as a vigorous advocate for their needs.' One reason why it is important to revisit this each year is because many other clubs have lost sight of the mission.
"We must help kids be more balanced," said the executive director "When you chase money just to pay salaries, you aren't fulfilling your mission. Certainly, I look forward; but, never lose sight of the past."
In his recommendation that Thompson be chosen for the award, Counter said his predecessor "embodied everything a club professional should possess: leadership, selflessness, a vision and the guts to be decisive. Ten days before Bruce passed away; he met with a board member and said, 'Develop Mount Tom and take care of these kids. Bruce also recommended hiring a current board member (to succeed him). This board member grew up in the club and Bruce felt he could take the club to the next level. "Bruce took care of everything at the club," recalled Counter, "including his successor"