History

OUR HISTORY

Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo has been serving youth since 1892. It is one of the original 53 Clubs that now make up the more than 4,000 Club Federation of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

"It is not true; that many a boy is bad because the best part of him has never developed? It is not that a newsboy is so much worse than other boys, but simply that the other half of him didn't get a chance."

--John E. Gunckel; Boyville, 1905
John Gunckel noticed the rowdy behavior of the young boys who sold newspapers in the streets of downtown Toledo as he went to work each day. He felt if given a little help, these boys could develop the "other half" and become productive citizens.

On December 25, 1892, Gunckel invited 102 of these "ruffians" to a Christmas dinner. With the support of local newspapers and several prominent businessmen, he helped the boys organize the Toledo Newsboys' Association. The group's mission was self-improvement. The boys ruled themselves according to a few basic guidelines: no swearing, no stealing, no shooting craps, no smoking, and no drinking. The punishment if caught violating rules was forfeiture of their membership card in the organization.

Within a year, the organization grew to 250 with members from all areas of the city. As part of their growth, the Newsboys developed a program of cultural enrichment, including Sunday afternoon lectures and music. This led to the development of the Toledo Newsboys' band. Toledoans began to notice a positive change in the behavior of the boys.
Gunckel, wanting to spread the word about the success of the Newsboys, wrote to the manager of the St. Louis World's Fair seeking permission to hold a Newsboy's Day at the fair. His efforts paid off and the day was approved. With the endorsement of the National Association of Managers of Newspaper Circulation, the boys met on August 16, 1904, and a national Newsboy's organization was born with Gunckel as president.

To promote the Newsboys' associations in other communities, Gunckel published Boyville in 1905. The book's popularity led to requests for lectures by Gunckel from people across the country. Proceeds from the book and lectures were given to the Newsboys' association.

As the founding group, the Toledo Newsboy's gained much notoriety. The Newsboy's Band was invited to perform in the parade at President Theodore Roosevelt's second inauguration. 
In 1908, Gunckel began an effort to raise $100,000 to build a Newsboy's building. His goal was to create a place where boys could gather and exchange fellowship. With the help of school children and Toledo businessmen, the campaign was a success and the Superior Street building was dedicated in 1911. 

Gunckel passed away on August 16, 1915, 11 years to the day that the national organization was established. Services are held each year on the anniversary of his death with members placing lotus blossoms on his grave.
J.D. Robinson, president of Libbey Glass Company, succeeded Gunckel as president. Robinson expanded the services of the organization to include vocational and recreational programs. Classes in carpentry, drawing, shoe repair, typing, printing and journalism were offered as career guidance counseling. 

After Robinson's death in 1929, the organization went through a period of rapid change. For a year, Gunckel's son, Will Gunckel, led the organization, followed by Joseph Robinson, J.D.'s son. Robinson expanded the Board of Trustees and founded Camp Big Silver on the Robinson Memorial Reservation in Pinckney, MI, in 1936.
Although the organization had long been affiliated with the Boys Clubs of America, under the leadership of Joseph Robinson, the Toledo Newsboys Association officially became the Boys Club of Toledo in 1942. The 1960s brought expansion. With support of a $75,000 donation from the Libbey-Owens-Ford Company, a former police station was purchased on Toledo's East Side. A successful capital campaign raised another $250,000 to remodel the facility, which opened in 1961. The organization expanded again in 1967, when the South Club was established. By the 1970s, a shift in the central city population and urban renewal resulted in a move from the original Superior Street building to a remodeled car dealership on Monroe St. and Detroit Ave. The new facility was named after Homer Hanham, the organization's executive director. 
In 1982, the organization recognized the need to expand its services to girls. The initial program offered girls activities one day a week. The pilot was a success and over 3,000 girls joined that year. In 1985, another successful capital campaign provided for building renovations to fully integrate girls into the Clubs' programming. That year, the organization was renamed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo.

Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo offer building-centric programs targeted to disadvantaged youth. The staff and trustees truly believe that GREAT FUTURES START HERE at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo. They are open to children ages 7-18 for a nominal membership fee; however no child is turned away. Building self-esteem and instilling self-confidence in members are two priorities of the organization. These factors have a definite impact on how youngsters respond to negative peer pressure.

For even more detail into our history, please click here to view the From Boyville to the Boys & Girls Clubs: 125 Years of John Gunckel’s Legacy in Toledo presentation. A special thanks to trustee, University Archivist - Director of Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections and Professor Barb Floyd for creating these wonderful and very knowledgeable slides for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo's 125th Anniversary year.

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