Bonnae Meshulam retired on Friday after a decade of service as executive director of the Boys and Girls Club in Westminster. Sean Davis, who most recently served as the group’s director of operations, is taking over the position.
“It’s been a wonderful journey these past 10 years,” Meshulam said.
Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a national organization with 4,300 local chapters that provide after-school programs for about 4 million young people across the United States. Clubs provide a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun and programs on a daily basis during critical nonschool hours.
In Carroll County, the club began in 2003, and was officially chartered by the national organization 10 years later. The nonprofit’s main club is on Westminster’s East Main Street; three smaller clubs operate in Hampstead, Taneytown and Sykesville.
The chapter has about 564 members who take part in 37 programs in five core areas: the arts, education, health and wellness, leadership and service, and sports and recreation.
Every day after school, kids fill the club to work on homework and play in the games room or computer lab, supported by staff members who complete annual training requirements. The club also runs special teen programs at three county middle schools and hosts a summer camp program.
According to the Westminster chapter’s 2021 annual report, the club reported a $1 million budget that was funded by grants and donations from corporations, foundations and individuals as well as income from special events and fees for programs and the $30 annual membership fee.
Meshulam came out of retirement in August 2012 to lead the Westminster Boys and Girls Club. At that time, she said the club’s facility on Union Street was too small. resulting in more than 75 kids on a waiting list to join.
In April 2016, the director began a capital campaign for a new building. The campaign lasted about two years and raised $5.5 million, which helped the group move into and renovate its current location on East Main Street, which used to be a bank.
“Since the day I came, I’ve asked about needs,” Meshulam said. “It was my mission to build and renovate our space so we could help as many kids as possible. … It was a struggling organization who had trouble just meeting payroll.”
At 17,000 square feet, the new facility provided more than three times the space as the old building.
“You gotta think big and you need to get other people to think big,” she said. ”The minute we opened we took all the families off the waiting list. It’s bright, airy and there are windows everywhere.”
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Davis praised Meshulam for her work with the club during the last 10 years.
“Bonnae has done so much for the community,” Davis said. “Her passion for kids, her energy and her enthusiasm are contagious.”
Davis said he and Meshulam have a shared vision for the organization.
“I’m excited to carry the torch and carry on her legacy, but I have very big shoes to fill,” Davis said. There’s only one Bonnae in this world and we will never be able to find another one.”
Meshulam will turn 70 this year, and she plans to spend more time with her family in Buffalo, New York, where she has already been contacted by the local Boys and Girls Club for help with raising funds.
“I’ll continue helping the club in Westminster, but they are such a strong, wonderful team,” she said. “I’m so proud Sean is taking over and I know he’ll blow the roof off the place. … I have all the faith in the world in him.”