Kenny Fontes hitting the ground running at Boys & Girls Club
Kenny Fontes started his job as director of the Boys & Girls Club of Wareham on Monday, but he's been making a to-do list since he interviewed for the job.
"My vision is that the Boys & Girls Club becomes more like a community center," said Fontes, a member of the Wareham School Committee and CEO of the JBA youth basketball league. "We need something to get the kids off the streets."
Fontes takes over for Barbara Sullivan, who retires on Jan. 31 after nearly eight years at the helm. Sullivan is credited with reviving the once-struggling Wareham unit.
Sullivan told him, "this Club needs somebody who is now going to take it to the next level," Fontes recalled. "Where we are now and where we'll be a year from now, I see major changes," he said.
The 56-year-old Fontes comes to the Boys & Girls Club after being laid off from NSTAR, where he worked for nearly 30 years.
"Things happen for a reason," he said of his August layoff, noting: "I'm too young to retire."
Fontes has hit the ground running with three priorities for the Club:
- To develop new programs
- To at least double the membership
- To upgrade and expand the facility
It is that work ethic that impressed those charged with finding a replacement for Sullivan.
"Mr. Fontes is someone who brings dedication and foresight to the position,” said Robert Mendes, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of New Bedford, of which Wareham is a unit.
Fontes, a Wareham native, says that the relationships he has forged with the community will aid him in achieving his goals for the Club. He is also a steadfast volunteer for Onset's Cape Verdean Festival.
"I want to build partnerships," Fontes said, noting that the Onset Youth Center and the Wareham Athletic Association have been looking for buildings to assist Wareham's youth. "Let's work together."
Fontes wants to expand arts and crafts and music programming, and is looking to start a sort of training program for high school students who want to mentor younger students at the Club.
Additionally, Fontes said he hopes to facilitate programs that will help students increase their scores in English and math, which, in his role as a member of the School Committee, he hears much about.
"I will figure out how we can coordinate having fun and homework and projects with making [children] feel good about themselves," Fontes said.
Doubling the membership and upgrading the facility are twofold, he says.
"I think a lot of kids are turned off from the Boys & Girls Club because of the building," Fontes said.
He is exploring whether the Club could move to a larger facility and whether an expansion could be completed at the current Viking Drive building.
Above all, Fontes says he hopes that current members of the Club will become future staffers.
"In JBA, the most rewarding thing is when kids who play come back to volunteer," he said. "That's how it should be at the Boys & Girls Club."
Fontes has a great start in building relationships with the children: He knows many of the Club's members from the basketball league.
In fact, one of the young ladies greeted him when he walked through the doors at the Club last week, after learning he got the job.
"She said, 'What are we supposed to call you?'" Fontes recalled.
Sullivan is referred to as "Mrs. Sullivan," but Fontes says "Mr. Fontes" sounds much too formal.
"I said, 'Call me Kenny!'" he noted with a big grin.