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Donna Strangis Dowd writes about the announcement that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania intends to close the LaRosa of McKeesport Clubhouse:
I was greatly dismayed upon reading about the recent closure of the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club by Lisa Abel-Palmieri, chief executive officer.
There have been several attempts over the past two years to work with her to ensure the continued success of the club that Mr. Sam LaRosa created — literally from the ground up — 75 years ago. All of the efforts of the board and directors have fallen on deaf ears.
The club was not running at a deficit — it had a waiting list of children to take advantage of the programs and activities that were being offered by the club. So I have to ask, what is the true meaning behind the closure of a club that has a rich, storied 75-year past in the McKeesport community?
When you continue to raise the prices of activities and summer camps and do away with family discounts, you are making a deliberate attempt to shut out the very children the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania were designed to help.
Four generations of my family have graced the halls of LaRosa Boys & Girls Club.
Whether it was as a member taking part of activities or showing the most recent generation where their Dad, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather learned many life lessons and made friends who are still part of their lives today, many years later.
That is the norm for the City of McKeesport: Multiple generations coming back to the safe haven of the club and carrying on the traditions of what the club represents to the community.
It is not just a building that offers programs and activities for the much-deserving, underprivileged children of the city of McKeesport. The LaRosa Boys & Girls Club is a place where the children of the community can gather in a safe environment; partake in activities that are lifelong lessons; and, be mentored by the many adults who value the idea of instilling good morals in our children.
Let's also not forget about the 11 LaRosa Boys & Girls Club members who lost their lives during the Vietnam war. Those 11 brave service members have never been forgotten by the community and are the driving force behind the Memorial Day service that takes place annually at the club.
They are not just some “old people’s pictures hanging on the wall” at the club, they were and continue to be members of our community that deserve to be remembered.
In closing I would like to say, if Ms. Abel-Palmieri is hell bent on turning her back on the children of the City of McKeesport, the very least she can do is to return the building and its contents back to the city — not sell it but return it as it was originally gifted to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.
The endowments that were set up specifically to be used for the LaRosa Club can continue to help serve the community as they were meant to. It represents a place of teaching and healing for an entire community, so let another charitable organization continue the legacy that Mr. Sam LaRosa started so many years ago when he had a vision to help the community he lived in.
—Donna Strangis Dowd
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Originally published November 25, 2020.