Boys & Girls Club Secures Its Future With New Staff Housing

Molly Renegar was named program director for the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club in 2018. She loved the job, the community, and the hundreds of island kids who walked through the doors of the club each afternoon. So why was she still contemplating moving off-island? Renegar was living paycheck-to-paycheck just to afford to live in an illegally converted shed with only a sink and a toilet. 

Molly Renegar

Her story was one of many that spurred the Boys and Girls Club to embark on an ambitious employee housing campaign that is now coming to fruition. Jamie Foster, the club’s executive director, said that he and the organization’s Board of Trustees recognized that housing was the key to staff retention and critically important to its mission of serving island children. 

Not content to wait for the town or other non-profits to figure out the island’s affordable housing challenges for them, Foster and the club’s trustees set out to solve the housing puzzle themselves.

Despite just having finished the $13 million renovation and expansion of the main clubhouse building itself, the board greenlighted a new $10 million housing initiative two years ago that encompassed property acquisition, construction, and a facilities fund for both the housing units and the clubhouse. 

“We had tripled the size of the club, and it seemed like more than we needed, but sure enough we filled it up,” Foster said. And so the club’s staffing needs grew as well. 

Today, the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club has 22 beds to accommodate its staff members, and they’re all filled. Of its 19 full-time, year-round employees, 15 of them are currently in staff housing units, along with seven children of those staff members.

Most of those units have been added over the past year with the completion of a four-lot subdivision next to the club’s main property that includes a new duplex and triplex. It also acquired another adjacent property at 75 Sparks Avenue last October with an existing dwelling that will add to its stock. 

The project has been spearheaded by Foster and board member Stephen Cheney. They told the Current that the club’s success depended on figuring out the housing equation, and they are thrilled with how the project has turned out, along with the results they are already seeing with recruitment and retention.

“We have been fortunate that Jamie has been a driving force in recognizing the need for employee housing,” said Lauren Marttila, the chair of the Club’s Board of Trustees. “Building this housing and investing in our community is a key part of our strategic plan, and you can really see the passion for the project in the leadership of Steve and Jamie. Jamie will tell you about every hire that was made possible because we could provide stable housing. And that translates to the best possible experience for the kids and families.”

More than 350 kids utilize the club on a daily basis, Cheney said, and more than 65 percent of the public school students on the island are now members. Island families rely on the club as a form of childcare for the after-school hours before dinner, but it also has to be a place that the kids want to go to. 

The staff housing has meant recruiting and retaining staff that allow the club to be more than simply a gym, they said. It now offers dynamic programming for kids of all ages – including teens – that includes a literacy program, reading workshops, computer classes and more. 

The Nantucket Boys & Girls Club is the now the only one in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America system that offers staff housing. 

The ability to offer housing as the centerpiece of a generous benefits package for employees has been a game-changer for recruitment and retention, Foster said. It has resulted in the club being able to retain valued staff members in key positions, including five employees who have been with the club for more than four years. It’s also allowed Foster to go out and recruit new employees with specialized backgrounds in child development who may have balked at moving to the island without secure and affordable housing. 

“It’s so important for staff retention and having employees who establish relationships with the kids and earn their trust,” Foster said. “It’s been massive for us.”

While the the construction has been completed, the public phase of the $10 million campaign to fund the housing initiative has just begun. The club has already secured about half of its goal through a handful of generous donors and board members including John Loose and the late Chuck Geschke. It is hoping to make a final push to complete the fundraising campaign this summer. 

Anyone interested in contributing to the campaign can e-mail Foster at jamie@nantucketbgc.org or donate at the Club’s web site at this link.

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