The Boys & Girls Club (2023)
An organization that sprung from humble beginnings is on the cusp of celebrating seventy years of dedication to area youth. Today’s Boys & Girls Club of Bartlesville was started in 1954 by successful pipeline company founder H.C. “Hal” Price and other local business leaders. The Boys Club, as it was known then, was held in a vacant church at 301 S. Seminole Avenue. The purpose was to provide “guidance and worthwhile activities” for the members of Mildred Haupt’s Candlelighter Club. For many years, Mrs. Haupt had opened her home to west Bartlesville boys for Bible study and character development. In January of 1954, the Boys Club of Bartlesville was incorporated as the very first Boys Club in the state of Oklahoma. The Club received its national charter in November of that same year.
By 1960, The Club had outgrown the church facility. Phillips Petroleum Company and the Price Foundation each contributed $75,000 to construct a new building at 401 S. Seminole – current location of the parking lot for today’s building. On May 7, 1961, Boys Club National Director John Gleason arrived in Bartlesville to dedicate the new facility.
However, a short eight years later, that building was already far too small for the demand in membership. In 1968, retired oil executive and businessman H.E. “Ted” Lyon and his wife, Melody, generously donated $100,000 to increase the size of the Club to 20,000 square feet – a building which many Bartlesville residents and Club alumni remember well.
Plans for a renovated Club began again in 2014. Former Phillips Petroleum Company Chairman Pete Silas had long expressed the desire to build a new Boys & Girls Club in Bartlesville. Mr. Silas attended a Club while growing up in Miami, Florida. As an adult, he served thirty years on the Boys & Girls Club of America Board of Governors, including two years as chairman. A capital campaign resulted in the current Club, which opened its doors January 2018.
There have been three notable executive directors for the Boys & Girls Club. These directors have all shared the qualities of longevity, community trust, and commitment. Jo Allyn Lowe was hired as the first executive director in 1954, and he faithfully served in that role until 1975. For the next twenty-six years, Joe Wilcox provided outstanding leadership and became the first director to oversee the admission of girls. He retired in 2001. Current CEO Jason Barta has now served for almost thirteen years, and he was an integral part of today’s spacious, modern facility becoming a reality. The trio of Lowe, Wilcox, and Barta have a combined sixty remarkable years of service during the Club’s 69-year history.
First and foremost, the Boys & Girls Club has always existed “to enable our young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential.” Its mission is to provide a world-class Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person. The Club is committed to having all members be on track to graduate from high school and with a plan for the future. Members are encouraged to demonstrate good character and citizenship, and to live a healthy lifestyle.
In the past ten years, The Club has opened its doors to almost 4,300 members, served 408,000 meals, and has seen its members receive over $325,000 in scholarships. Members of the local Boys & Girls Club have competed against twenty other Oklahoma Clubs to win the State Youth of the Year competition five times. Flagship programs at the Boys & Girls Club have historically been centered around sports and fitness. However, in the last twenty years, there has been a concerted effort to diversify the Club to include programming in Character & Leadership, Education & Career, Health & Life Skills, Sports, Fitness & Recreation, and the Arts. Since 2010, the organization’s budget has grown from $325,000 to over $1 million. Expanding its reach to better serve area youth, a new Boys & Girls Club will open in the Dewey community this September.
The Boys & Girls Club of Bartlesville will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2024. And since those humble beginnings in 1954, The Club has been an anchor for countless youth, and it has been a mainstay to our community and its home in West Bartlesville…where “Great Futures Start Here.”