January 3, 2024

The Most Positive Place in Portland | Inside the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine

As we walked through the front door of Boys and Girls Club of Portland alongside a group of young members who’d just burst out of the drop-off van, the dark, dreary weather outside disappeared into a flurry of giggles, excited shrieks and shouts of “hello.” Director of Donor Engagement and Marketing Deirdre Clifford rises to greet us from behind the front desk where she’s been instructing the children to hang their coats properly before heading off to their part of the three-story building at 277 Cumberland Avenue. The red brick building opened its large double wooden doors to the youth of Portland (just boys back then) in 1931 and has been “The Positive Place for Kids” ever since.

Boys and Girls Club Word Wall

The Portland “Clubhouse” is one of nine Club spaces operated by Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine that are all dedicated to advancing Academics, Arts, Leadership and Health & Wellness.  K-12 students receive the after-school care, support, and instruction they need to be safe, secure, and happy while their parents are at work. “There are no barriers here,” Deirdre explains. “Our doors are open to any child who needs a safe place and healthy meal to be from the time they get out of school until as late as 8pm.” For working parents who are unable to drop their children off at Boys and Girls Club, the staff picks them up at school. Within minutes after walking through the door, every member receives a hot snack before heading off to participate in a wide range of activities and learning opportunities. And it’s all free.

Just past the entrance, several children are playing bumper pool and board games while others read quietly or talk excitedly with their friends – all under the watchful eye of several staff members, many of whom are in their early to mid-twenties. Young enough to relate to the members and offer them an understanding ear, yet old enough to enforce the rules and keep 300-500 kids in line, it’s clear these supervisors are the fuel that powers the Boys and Girls Club’s engine.

Boys and Girls Club Pool

From the basement pool where free swimming lessons are offered, to the teen center where high school students can access tutoring and the mentoring they need to prepare for post-school life, Boys and Girls Club is a haven for children of all ages. “We welcome members from all walks of life and for many of our members, the Club is an invaluable resource when they are out of school,” Deirdre explains. “By offering a safe space, warm meal, and programs to help them build their future, we are giving them all the tools they need to succeed.”

Boys and Girls Club Elementary Room

Because it’s school vacation week, the Portland Club is uncharacteristically quiet, which gives us time to take in all the lovely details of the elementary school room. Looking at the colored pictures, alphabet charts, and stacks of books on shelves 3’ and below, you can picture how exciting the room must be for children who may not have much at home. How wonderful it must be to walk through these doors and know you’ll be safe, warm, and cared for no matter how difficult things may be at school or at home.

Boys and Girls Club signAt United Insurance, we believe every child deserves the resources, confidence, and support to pursue their dreams regardless of how much money their parents have. That’s why we’re proud to be the business insurance partner of Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine and a supporter of its programs since 2009.

If this story inspires you to help this important work, please CLICK HERE. If you’d like to be a part of our team at the Portland Club’s annual Patriot’s Day Road Race, please email our Director of Marketing and Community Engagement Jim Darroch.



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