It has been 60 years since the Dawson Boys and Girls Club officially opened its doors on Woodland Avenue in Verdun. The centre’s goal is the same today as it was in 1959 – to promote community spirit. Dawson is a hub for leisure, education and growth to both preschoolers and elders.
The coexistence of the different age groups is what sets Dawson apart from most community centres in Montreal.
« It’s the organization’s strength. We have some members who are in their 80’s. Our Parents & Tots program supports new mothers, new fathers and even grandparents, » says Education Manager Darley Polony.
Verdun resident Alicia Mancini signed up for Parents & Tots shortly after giving birth to her first child. It helped her family through a difficult period.
« The program helped my son adjust to separation anxiety. It’s a problem for a lot of young families, » the 33-year-old mother says.
It also offers a Saturday morning respite service for moms and dads.
The Dawson Boys and Girls Club offers a total of seven programs geared to toddlers, youngsters aged 4 to 12, pre-teens, teenagers, young adults and adults over 50.
There is also a special gardening workshop called Un plant de tomate à la fois. Participants get to grow their own vegetables on the building’s rooftop garden.
« You would think it’s just for the seniors but children learn about food security issues and how to live in a more healthy environment, » says Polony.
Dawson also offers camps during the summer and winter months, as well as special activity programs during March Break.
« This past summer, members of our summer camp helped put together a massive mural in an alleyway located just outside our building. They were guided by a well-known artist. It was such a rewarding experience, » she adds.
Currently, the Dawson Boys and Girls Club serves about 700 people – both members and drop-ins. Officials say they are equipped to accommodate more.
« We would love to welcome even more Verdun residents to participate. There are many vulnerable families in our borough and we can help in some way. Poverty will always be an issue. There will always be a need for an ear, » says Polony.
The not-for-profit organization plans to better promote its services to mark its 60th anniversary.
« We have some former members who are volunteering here now. That’s how much this place has meant to them. They keep coming back, » Polony says.
That’s Mancini’s wish. She hopes her two boys take part in after-school programs as they continue to grow.
« We’ve signed up to practically everything, » she says.
An annual membership at the Dawson Boys and Girls Club costs $15. Most of the programs and services are low cost and available in both English and French.
For more info: dccverdun.ca