DeAngelo set to leave Boys & Girls Club

Standing by his family photos, Boys + Girls Club Executive Director Bob DeAngelo will be leaving behind a lifetime of memories, both as an employee and attendee of the club, when he leaves his post this spring.  —Ken Borsuk

Standing by his family photos, Boys + Girls Club Executive Director Bob DeAngelo will be leaving behind a lifetime of memories, both as an employee and attendee of the club, when he leaves his post this spring.
—Ken Borsuk

Bob DeAngelo’s roots with the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich go beyond the 16 years he’s served as executive director there. They go all the way back to when he was a kid growing up in Greenwich and a member of the club, and they have guided him throughout his years at the helm.

That’s why it was not an easy decision for him when he officially announced last week that he was leaving the position. The club has been a part of his life for decades, and leaving it will be difficult, but Mr. DeAngelo, in an interview last week with the Post, said he knows it’s the right time.

“When I was hired for this job 16 years ago, I really had two goals,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “During the interview for the job, I told the search committee that I would do my best to weave the club totally into the community. I think it had gotten pretty passive. I love the community. I’m from here. I grew up here. I went here. I felt community. That was something that needed to be improved. And the building was getting ready to fall down. It was old when I came here as a kid in the 1960s. That was something that had to be addressed and those were the goals I set out to accomplish.”

Mr. DeAngelo said he feels that during his years running the club, those goals have been accomplished, and he wanted to stay on, not just until the finish line was reached but long enough to enjoy the “fruits of the labor” from the capital campaign to renovate the building and all the community outreach. Not only has the facility been rebuilt and revitalized, but Mr. DeAngelo feels he accomplished his goal of making the club more involved with the community, something very important to him as someone who was a member as he grew up in Greenwich.

“It probably was the most important thing for me and not just for selfish reasons, because I thought community weave was important,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “I really believe that it was important for all the right reasons. It brings out the best in people. People want to see cooperation and partnerships, and when you leverage other people’s strengths towards a common good of helping kids, that’s great for kids.”

He added that having the club as such a big part of the community offered a unique opportunity for many who, like him, had spent their childhood as a part of it.

“How many guys get to relive their youth here?” Mr. DeAngelo said. “I’m a big kid at heart, and I got to relive my youth and be in a place I came to as a kid in a town I grew up in. My grandparents helped build this clubhouse with their bare hands. I got to flip pancakes at our annual pancake breakfast with my dad. Now I walk around town and everyone loves the Boys & Girls Club. Everywhere I go, people talk about the impact it had on them and their families, and that smacks of real community. For me personally, all I ever wanted to be was a real community Joe, and this job allowed me that chance.”

Because of that connection, Mr. DeAngelo said, it actually makes it easier for him to leave. He said he can see how cherished the club is in Greenwich and that it has been advanced forward during his tenure to the point where people in the community are invested in making kids’ lives better. Mr. DeAngelo said he feels blessed to have “done the journey” here and is confident that the staff will carry on without him.

His performance has been much acclaimed, both from the community and from the board of trustees of the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich. In announcing his departure, board Chairman Lisa Stuart praised Mr. DeAngelo as a “great visionary.”

“His accomplishments have been remarkable,” Ms. Stuart said. “Bob championed the fund raising behind our magnificent clubhouse, the ice rink and the turf field. He has been a community builder who connected with all of the club’s diverse constituencies and solidified partnerships with other valued Greenwich organizations. … Bob’s enthusiasm and passion to serve kids will be missed.”

Mr. DeAngelo said be firmly believes in the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link in the chain,” and that at one point the clubhouse itself was the weakest link. He said it was “literally falling apart,” with the pool in danger of collapse, the roof threatening to cave in and the club having to go six months without having any heat. He said the kids and staff were spectacular throughout it all, but the building was falling apart. However, thanks to a capital campaign that brought about a lot of community support, the renovations have been made and the club is thriving today.

Beyond making the facility itself as strong a link as the staff and the kids, Mr. DeAngelo said, he was happy to see academic support increase during his tenure. Now the club isn’t just a place for kids to have fun but also a place where they can get help with their homework. Mr. DeAngelo said this can be critical for kids, and he said he was also proud of the growing use of Camp Simmons, which he called a “diamond in the rough” to get kids outdoors more, and the impact of the theater arts program.

“Not every kid here is an athlete, and we’re able to bring out the best in kids in a lot of different ways out here,” Mr. DeAngelo said.

Mr. DeAngelo said he has seen the need for a place like the Boys & Girls Club grow in Greenwich during his time. He said there are kids at risk in Greenwich who need the kind of “basic building blocks of self-esteem and self-confidence” that the club can provide. The economic downturn has also pushed the need for the club as more and more parents have had to work longer hours, leaving kids in need of a place to go during the summer or after school. That has brought the number of kids there close to capacity and also made it more critical, in Mr. DeAngelo’s view, that they get the kind of high-quality service they need.

“There’s even more need for a Boys & Girls Club today than there was when I was a kid, or even 20 years ago,” Mr. DeAngelo said.

To anyone who has seen Mr. DeAngelo eagerly take off on long bike rides across the country, it won’t surprise them when he admits to a bit of wanderlust. He wants to see what else is out there and is eager for new challenges, he said.

“I’ve pedaled across the United States and I was a pilot in the U.S. Navy,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “I love moving around and I knew at some point I would do something different with my life. I always thought I would do several different things. I don’t have a new job yet. I’m totally passionate about bicycle riding, so I’m going to try and peer into the whole bicycle riding industry a little bit. I’d love to make a living pedaling a bike or in something bike-related, and I love the outdoors. I’ll look in areas like that. I want to meet some high-energy people doing some really neat stuff.”

Mr. DeAngelo said he is looking forward to sitting down and charting out with his wife, Jan, what the next trail will be for them. He says his wife is actually the best executive director the club has ever had, because she’s been a sounding board for his ideas and was never shy about telling him which ideas were great and which ones just weren’t going to work.

In the meantime, there will be memories to look back on, covering everything from the restoration of the building to being the host of the infamous LeBron James The Decision special where he announced his intention to sign as a free agent with the Miami Heat amidst much hoopla. Mr. DeAngelo said his best memories will be from how well he’s gotten to know the kids and seeing the strides they’ve made and from events like the 100th anniversary in 2010 when old members returned, old mementos and photographs were taken out, and a time capsule was uncovered to connect the old with the young and show the deep legacy of the club in Greenwich.

But Mr. DeAngelo is not headed out the door quite yet. The announcement of his impending departure merely started a long transition out. He will continue to work at the club through May 31 to complete projects that are already under way while assisting in the leadership transition. Sukie McFadden, who is the current COO for the club as well as a staff member for 27 years, will serve as the interim executive director, and the club’s board has formed a search committee for a permanent replacement.

That means Mr. DeAngelo will be able to have at least a little bit of input on a successor, and he said he’s eager to help the committee. But he has no doubt that with so many agencies in town eager to partner with the club and the club’s staff in place, that success will continue at the Boys & Girls Club.

“I think the skill set moving forward that the next executive director has to have is obviously being totally passionate about kids,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “It helps if you’re a big kid at heart, and you really have to be a people person. This is a people business. I think in this era now it’s getting so competitive that you have to think about efficiency and running your organization as efficiently as possible. A lot of new things are coming down the pike that are driving health and benefit costs, so you’ve got to have a smart, analytical person who has to have great vision and creativity. Greenwich is truly a spectacular, unique place where if you connect the dots, you can have an idea and bring it to life with all the assets in Greenwich.”

 

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