Three great youth centers, but under one new name

Last Tuesday, the Board of Trustees of the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club voted to change the name of the non-profit organization to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester. The unanimous vote is a key step in branding a new identity for the 34 year-old organization, which has grown to include three youth centers serving more than 4,000 youngsters across the neighborhood. The new name - and a new logo - was unveiled to hundreds of club donors, friends and members at a special gathering last Thursday evening at Fenway Park's State Street Pavilion room.

At right: The new logo of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester

Each of the club's existing centers - the original Colonel Daniel Marr clubhouse on Deer Street, the Paul R. McLaughlin Teen Center on Dorchester Avenue and the Walter Denney Center on Mt. Vernon Street - will keep their own names at their individual building sites. But, the identity of the parent organization will now be under what Bob Scannell, the organization's President and CEO, calls the "umbrella name" of Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester.

"When we started, it was one club, the Marr building," said Scannell. "Now we have the Paul McLaughlin Youth Center, the Walter Denney and we still called ourselves the Daniel Marr. People just didn't understand it."

Scannell said that it was about three years ago when the board "started to realize that the organization really lacks an identity that makes sense to people, to understand who we are and what we do."

There has been much confusion over the Daniel Marr name, Scannell said, especially in regards to donors who donate elsewhere because they think the organization is completely funded by the Marr family.

"No one can expect a single family to handle that," Scannell says. "We've got to be in a position to raise as much money as possible."

While several Marr family members are critically important as contributors and board members, the club needs millions of dollars a year to operate.

"There's an emotional situation here where a family helped start this 35 years ago and they've been involved and their name's been attached to it," Scannell said. "That took some work, you know, over the last several months, and meeting with them and trying to get things right," he added.

"We're all on the same team here so we all want to, at the end of the day, do what's right for the kids of Dorchester. And that's the great thing about our Board - everyone gets that."

The original clubhouse on Deer Street was the organization's only building from it's inception in 1974 until the McLaughlin Center on Dorchester Avenue opened in 2000. The Marr Club took over management of the Walter Denney Youth Center in Harbor Point in 2003. Four members of the Marr family are on the Board, including one of the founders, Robert L. Marr, as well as his nephews David, Jeffrey, Stephen and Daniel Marr.

"Speaking for the Marr family, we are very, very proud of the accomplishments of the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club," said Daniel Marr.

"While we're very proud of that, we feel that, that it was certainly in the best interest of the child that we use--that we unite" the clubs. He said he does not look at it as being a name change, but rather "a unified identity that they didn't have before… all under one flag."

The branding decision is one part of a plan that started last year in order to improve programs, restructure roles, develop the Board, and fundraise more efficiently. The re-branding segment of the three-year plan will not involve any leadership changes, said Scannell.

"It will be the same operation, the same players, the same board, the same staff, different look, different name."

Advertising agency Allen and Gerritsen took on the project pro bono, changing their previous logo to a design comprised of a roof above three overlapping circles. The clubs' new theme will be "Find Out What's Inside."

Board chairperson Maureen Peterson, who has served on the board for more than two decades, said there have been meetings, focus groups made up of staff members and people from the community, and surveys conducted that contributed to the re-branding process.

"We've been eating, drinking, sleeping this whole concept," said Peterson. "I'm just excited that as we go forth…we'll be exposed to more donors," as well as opportunities to fundraise, she said. "As a board member, you know, that's my number one responsibility."

She calls the re-branding "a visible way of telling people how we have grown in the Dorchester community over the years," as well as a way to have a "tighter connection to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America."

Kip Parker, the Director of Resource Development at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, regards the change as a way to draw more people to the organization.

"In a nutshell, the simplicity of the name…will help to attract volunteers. More kids will come to the club and more people will want to get involved."

"I think it's going to help with our visibility within the community and the region," Parker said.

Mike Joyce, the club's Vice President of Programming, said the organization will do what it can to make sure there is "nothing lost in translation," as they let the community know about the changes. The reaction within the club walls, Joyce said, has been positive. "I think everybody is on board."

"It's an exciting change for the club," said Joyce, adding that the new name "will probably give more definition to who we serve." Instead of local youth seeing the original club name and saying "Where is that?" Joyce said, they'll look at the name and say, "Oh, there's a Boys and Girls Club in my neighborhood."

Scannell said that through e-mails, the club's website, a quarterly newsletter that reaches 6,000 people, announcements during upcoming events, and possibly, public service announcements and a billboard, the club will roll out their new identity in the months ahead.

"History is a very important thing, but right now there's nothing more important than the future," said Scannell. "That's why we had to take this big step."