Foundation and Boys & Girls Club partnership spans more than 70 years

Boys and Girls Club Kids

The A. O. Smith Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee are celebrating their unique 70 year partnership this year; a relationship that precedes the official A. O. Smith Foundation. While the Foundation has been active for 60 years, L. B. Smith began to give back to Milwaukee even before the Foundation was formed.

The Boys & Girls Clubs has been active in the lives of Milwaukee youth for 128 years. There are 44 clubs across Milwaukee. The Clubs aim to inspire and empower young people and ensure that they realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.

By making it their mission to provide safety and programs that address good character and citizenship, as well as college and careers, the club has successfully managed to become the oldest and largest youth-serving agency in the city. 

The neighborhood-based organization gives youth access to role models year-round, after school and in the summer. In the Milwaukee area, 43,000 young people are served annually by the Clubs. 

“Through an organized program delivery, we can have an impact on the social and emotional health of children, as well as their academic success and outlook for the future,” said Denisha Tate, chief strategy officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. 

While the organization is typically known for serving children, it actually supports club members through college graduation. With the graduation plus program, the Boys & Girls Club ensures that students attending college will have the resources necessary to earn a degree and enter a career.

“We have found that the hard part is not getting accepted to college. The biggest challenge is going to college and graduating,” explained Denisha. 

As an organization that also values community involvement and education, the A. O. Smith Foundation has worked hard to help the Boys & Girls Club achieve its goals. However, with a partnership dating back to 1945, the organizations have a personal relationship that extends beyond financial support. 

Familiar faces from A. O. Smith
“The depth of A. O. Smith’s involvement with us is really shown in Paul Jones’ commitment and accessibility here,” said Denisha. “Many of the children have met him and know of A. O. Smith by name. This removes the anonymity from the idea of corporate leaders, and they become attainable people to admire instead of a name on a page.” 

Former Chairman, President and CEO, Paul Jones, was a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs board of directors from 2006 to 2014 and often visited while club activities were in session, making himself familiar to many of the children. 

Roger Smith, director of community affairs at A. O. Smith also regularly visits the Boys & Girls Club. Last March, he toured the Don & Sallie Davis Club alongside President and CEO, Vincent Lyles. 

Spark Early Literacy Program
The Foundation’s most recent pledge to the Boys & Girls Club was to their Decade of Hope Campaign. The program was created to expand the footprint of the clubs and have companies partner with them to improve certain areas.

The Foundation chose to specifically help build their early literacy program, because learning to read is a fundamental element of academic success.

“Our Spark program includes 11 sites with 550 struggling readers who could not have closed the gap to proficient reading levels without A. O. Smith’s commitment. This initiative was created and supported here, but is now nationally recognized,” said Denisha.

Midwest Regional Boys & Girls Club Conference
In 2012, the Milwaukee Clubs hosted a Midwest conference for club representatives from 13 states. At the conference, a business community panel allowed the audience to hear first-hand from companies regarding what they looked for in charities they wanted to partner with, why they invested, and what made a good cause.

Paul Jones was on this panel and the company also donated an A. O. Smith water heater as one of the giveaway prizes.

“In this instance, A. O. Smith partnered with us in such a meaningful way. The club location that won this water heater was actually struggling with a broken heater that they did not have the funds to replace,” described Denisha. “The club representative was in tears when she won it. This level of generosity was a personal triumph. It touched the roots of the organization in a way that a check would not have been able to.”

For more information about the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee visit