From the Burroughs Home to The Burroughs Community Center- a long and rich history
"The Burroughs" has been a cornerstone of the Black Rock and West End communities for over a century. This beautifully designed and impressive structure was originally a home for single working women many of whom were employed in nearby factories. For $1.50 a month, the women could keep a roof over their head, have access to the trolley service and be properly chaperoned. As the need for factory housing subsided, the Burroughs gradually transformed into a home for elderly but active women. By 1995 there was little need for this type of housing and the Home was put on the market. A group of residents from the Black Rock neighborhood seized the opportunity to create a community center and raised the funds to purchase and renovate the beautiful historic building.
Since then, the newly named Burroughs Community Center (BCC) has become home to numerous non-profit agencies, including the Bridgeport American Youth Soccer Organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwester Connecticut, the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, Safe Neighborhood AmeriCorps, Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, The Witness project, Public Allies Connecticut and the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership-organizations that advocate for and serve the needs of families in Bridgeport and beyond. We also provide space and support to over 70 non-profits and community groups, including the Black Rock Community Council, the Black Rock Homeowners Association and the Parent Leadership Training Institute bringing over 45,000 community members through our front door annually.
In addition, the center at the request of the community instituted an after-school program for middle school students that offered everything from homework help and leadership training to fitness and filmmaking. During summers, BCC also hosted a camp. In recent years the Center has added programs for adults, including the Quick Start Language Center, a community garden and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to help local low income residents with tax preparation.
In April 2011 the Burroughs Community Center in collaboration with the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club realized its plan to build a larger facility to expand its youth and teen programs. The Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse owned and managed by Wakeman opened officially on June 29, 2011. It operates as a separate entity but is located on property formerly owned by the Burroughs Community Center. Locating youth programs in the Clubhouse has freed up space in the original Burroughs Building and will enable the BCC to offer many more parent and adult -oriented programs to the surrounding neighborhood and to the Bridgeport community
During the winter of 2011, anticipating this opportunity, a committee undertook a strategic planning process to define goals for the "new" Burroughs Community Center. A survey, in English and Spanish, was distributed to local residents, asking about their preference for programming. Care was taken to reach as many of the residents as possible who lived within walking distance of the center, including neighborhoods where nearly 60 percent of the families live below the poverty line and where English is not the spoken language of the household. Survey returns indicated an overwhelming need for computer access as well as a desire for adult education and fitness programs. In addition to computer access, top vote getters included exercise, dance, ethnic cooking, nutrition programs, stress reduction, art and language classes. Several Black Rock residents with expertise in a given area have indicated an interest in facilitating many of these classes
There is a new director, Paul Farina, and the board has added new members from the community. A top priority for Paul is to create a computer center to relieve the overcrowding at other computer centers in the county-most notably at the Black Rock library. In addition the Board would like to "green" the building as it upgrades and revitalizes the physical structure.
The Burroughs Community Center is looking forward to continuing its service to Bridgeport and neighboring towns in the coming years. Our mission remains unchanged: To provide the residents of Bridgeport with program opportunities and facility resources for the purpose of promoting individual growth and community cohesiveness.