New day at Neighborhood Club

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave., is narrowing its focus and rewriting its mission in an effort to remake its image and build its bank.
Already known for its many popular children’s programs, like the Tot Lot, which looks after youngsters during the day, the century-old community center is now exclusively developing programs surrounding young people, according to Neighborhood Club Executive Director Jennifer Bosch.
“[We are] serving only youth from here on out,” Bosch said, adding that programming will include activities for whole families based on the needs of children.
The move necessitates the elimination of many programs for senior citizens, including the Golden Diners program, which provides meals for seniors at a modest cost. That program will be phased out as of Sept. 24. Though the club is seeking out a new location for the meals, it has thus far come up short.
“We are looking diligently for new locations,” Bosch said.
While revamping the club and adding programming would have squeezed the seniors out anyway, Bosch said state law related to a new daycare center being built in the club meant adults coming to the center would have to pass background checks and other processing, making keeping programs unrelated to youth impractical.
In addition, the programs have, on their own, been petering out, Bosch said.
“For the past few years, participation has been diminishing,” Bosch said.
The new rules also mean daytime meeting space will also have to be youth-oriented, meaning regular meeting space for community groups will no longer be available. Large community meetings, however, will still be possible in the club’s gym, Bosch said.
The club will be adding programming for children up to five years old and swelling the total number of youth who can be served at existing programs, according to Bosch. A new literacy program, healthy cooking classes for entire families and other health-related programs are all part of the clubs revamped mission, which focuses on health and young people, according to Bosch.
Bosch characterized the decision as a life-or-death one for the club, saying since she became executive director just more than two years ago, she and the board had been mulling the question “are we going to close the organization or are we going to find a future?”
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