The Boys & Girls Club of Hoboken honored local fundraisers, volunteers, and supporters at an annual fundraiser calling them “Champions of our youth.”
Those honored at the Oct. 30 event include 7-year-old Elise Papakonstantinou and her younger sister, Coco who donated more than $500 from their local tapioca dessert business; the Hoboken Rotary Club; BICS; Hudson Table; Councilman Ruben Ramos; Hoboken Police Officer Elias Leo Colon; and Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano.
Also at the fundraiser, hosted at Antique Loft at Riverview in downtown Hoboken, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County Gary Greenberg announced the nonprofit’s latest advocacy initiative, Agenda for Americas Youth.
The club, at 123 Jefferson St., provides after-school programs and runs a low-cost summer camp. These programs are offered free or at a low cost, depending on the household’s annual gross income. The club’s mission is “to help young people, especially those who need us most, build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders.”
Currently, the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County serves approximately 2,000 kids in its Hoboken and Jersey City locations.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America launched its “Agenda for America’s Youth” advocacy platform, focusing on the top issues and solutions impacting young people.
The situation has never been more urgent.
“Each day after school, 11.3 million kids return home to an empty house,“ said Greenberg. “One out of six students fails to graduate from high school on time, and almost half don’t believe the American Dream is possible. We see the inequity these young people face, and that’s why we are committed to advocating for them as part of the Agenda for America’s Youth platform.”
According to Greenberg, out-of-school time is at the forefront of the agenda because the club believes it has a critical impact on ensuring safer childhoods, so every child feels safe physically and emotionally, not just in clubs, but everywhere.
Greenberg said the Boys & Girls Clubs of America have prioritized issues that support youth in making positive decisions and embracing healthy lifestyles and wellness as well as prepare youth for life after the club with education, leadership opportunities, and workforce readiness.
“When every young person has access to quality out-of-school time opportunities, when they feel safe emotionally and physically, when they are healthy, and when they have the leadership skills, there is nothing they can’t do, but we can’t do it alone,” said Greenberg to the crowd of roughly 140. “That’s why we are grateful to each and every one of you. … These kids are suffering hard. They face poverty, trauma … and you all make an unbelievable difference in their lives.”
Each honoree received a commemorative trophy thanking them for the work they do for the club.
Rich Marsh of the Hoboken Rotary Club said every year they throw the children a Christmas party with pizza, Santa Claus, and wrapped gifts.
“It really means so much to us to try and give back to the kids,” he said.
Hudson Table teaches kids about healthy habits on a regular basis so much so that “the kids think they work there,” Greenberg laughed.
BICS, Greenberg said, has been a substantial contributor to the club, as has Freeholder Anthony Romano, who Greenberg said helped secure funding and summer basketball leagues for the club over the years.
“You are the real hero,” said Romano of Greenberg and the club. “This truly means so much to me .., this is worth more than a million dollars to me.”
The club also honored Hoboken Police Officer Elias Leo Colon, who Greenberg said was one of the first kids to walk through the club’s doors when it opened in 1984.
“You people all really cared about us at a time when no one really cared about the projects,” said Colon. “I’m blessed to be a role model, though, and show that just because you grew up in the projects doesn’t mean you can’t do nothing in life.”
Greenberg said Councilman Ruben Ramos, who lives next door to the club, has been an advocate and supporter for years.
“The Boys & Girls Club is near and dear to my heart,” said Ramos. “As an eighth-grade teacher in Paterson, I see the inequities every day. Kids are going home to empty refrigerators and empty homes, but the Boys & Girls Club fills that gap.”
The youngest honorees were seven-year-old Elise Papakonstantinou and her younger sister Coco, who donated $516 to the Boys & Girls Club that they earned by selling tapioca at their tapioca popup stand at Alfalfa.
“We need more people like you in the world,” Greenberg said.