Retiring: Brian Tremblay provided decades of service to Boys & Girls Club

New Hampshire Union Leader
December 08. 2017 10:24PM
Brian Tremblay, director of philanthropy for the Boys & Girls Club, is set to retire after 42 years. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

If you were thinking about attending Brian Tremblay’s retirement party at the Radisson on Friday, you’re too late. The Boys & Girls Club of Manchester shindig at the Radisson is sold out, at nearly 400 tickets.

For anyone who knows Tremblay and his work as director of philanthropy for the nonprofit, that’s hardly surprising. You make a lot of friends in the community when your job is raising money to help kids.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about this because I’m retiring. But how blessed are the people that come to work here,” Tremblay said Thursday at the club’s headquarters on Union Street. “Everyday I get up, I’m happy and thankful to be heading where I’m heading. It’s been a remarkable blessing.”

Tremblay, 67, started working for the nonprofit 42 years ago, back when the club was only for boys. The Boys Club opened its doors to girls in the mid-’80s and added 50 percent more space seven years ago with a $7.3 million remodel.

And as Tremblay makes his exit — he still plans to stay involved — the club is readying another fundraising campaign to add additional space to make room for the nearly 600 children it serves every day from first grade through high school. It also wants to upgrade Camp Foster, the 22-acre summer center it operates in Bedford.

Over the years, the Boys & Girls Club has greatly expanded its services. In addition to the sports, recreational and arts activities long associated with the club, it now offers dental care, computer training, educational programs, daily breakfast and dinner, and a food pantry.

When the visiting reporter says he remembers when the Boys Club was a place to make crafts, play basketball and shoot BB guns in the basement back in the ’70s, Tremblay says the club’s mission has never changed.

“Our mission is the same today as it was when you came here. And that is to reach out to all kids, especially those who need us most, to assist them in reaching their full potential in life,” said Tremblay, who was named Citizen of the Year in 2008 by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. “I want them to be responsible individuals, caring, responsible human beings as they grow up. And we still do that.”

The original club building opened in 1957. In 2010, the Boys & Girls Club expanded the original 22,000 square feet by 50 percent.

“We basically gutted the building. We took the windows and doors and ceilings of the building and totally refurbished the building, reconfigured and added 11,600 square-feet. So essentially it was a brand new Boys & Girls Club,” Tremblay said.

It didn’t take long for the club to outgrow the additional space.

“What we’ve experienced since we opened seven years ago was that we’re beyond capacity,” Tremblay said as he described the planned expansion of the building’s southeast side. “We’re in the quiet phase of a capital campaign to add 4,900 additional square footage to this building. We like to call it a campus for kids.”

The hundreds of kids who come to the club before and after school daily for meals and activities presses the staff of 16 to keep up.

“We’re trying to reduce the ratio of staff to kids down to a more productive level. Our average is about 560 kids a day,” Tremblay said. “What we want to do is create more opportunities for the kids when they’re here and more interaction with adult role models. Really, that’s the bread and butter of the Boys & Girls Club.”

The club has become a partner with local schools, helping its members stay on track.

“When our kids come in here every day, homework is not mandatory, but it’s strongly encouraged. We know when progress reports and report cards are handed out to the kids at school,” Tremblay said. “On those days, all of our program areas are asking you for your progress report. When report cards arrive, we’re going to ask you, can I have your report card so I can make a copy and give it back to you? So we make copies of those. And then our staff meets and we discuss any issues that we need to focus on our kids and then get them up to our learning center.”

The club recently began a pilot program with the Manchester School District to more closely monitor the academic progress of members.

“One of our focuses is making sure every Boys & Girls Club member is advancing in school on time, and is graduating from high school with a plan to go on to post-secondary education of some form,” Tremblay said. “It doesn’t have to be a college. It could be Manchester Community College, NHTI, it could be a trade school, it could be a university, whatever. But we’re focused on setting our kids up for success.”

When Chris Proulx, owner of Double Midnight Comics, was named by the Union Leader as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2010, he named Tremblay as the person outside his family he most admired.

“He and the rest of the staff have inspired me to make a difference in the community, especially when it comes to the needs of children,” Proulx said at the time.

Stephen McMahon, of The McMahon & Wright Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, has been on the club’s board of directors for 32 years, working with Tremblay on fundraising campaigns.

“Brian and I have become very close friends. I guess I start out by saying he’s the finest human being I’ve ever known,” McMahon said Friday.

He described Tremblay as the kind of person who leaves you smiling as you walk away. But his impact runs much deeper than that.

“I would say hundreds and as many as a thousand adults who went through the club in his forty-something years would say he saved their life. And I have met many of them,” McMahon said. “He made the difference from them dropping out of school, getting into drugs, drinking, jail, whatever. It’s a remarkable legacy he’s going to leave with his life.”

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