The Examiner

Skanes Bids Farewell to Boys & Girls Club in Mt. Kisco

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Brian Skanes, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco for the past 21 years, will step down from his post this Friday, Apr. 10.
Brian Skanes, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco for the past 21 years, will step down from his post this Friday, Apr. 10.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Boys & Girls Club has played a dominant role in the life of Mount Kisco resident Brian Skanes.

From his youth in New England through nearly all of his professional career, he has spent decades with the nonprofit organization.

Now, another chapter in his work will end when he steps aside as executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco this Friday, a position he has held for 21 years. He will be moving to the Albany area with his wife, Jean, to be close to their two children, Mark and Monica, who live in the capital region.

But his involvement with the organization continues. He will be working with the national Boys & Girls Club and will travel throughout the country in his new role as director of organizational development for major metro clubs.

“My wife and I had decided that it was time to move to Albany,” he said.

When officials from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America learned he was planning to move upstate, they offered him the job, Skanes said.

Before being hired to oversee the Mount Kisco club, Skanes was a regional vice president for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for five years. He had also been CEO of the Boys & Girls Club in Binghamton, N.Y.; CEO of a club in Massachusetts and program director and acting executive director of another in Salem, N.H. It’s been 41 years with the Boys & Girls Club after his original plans to become a teacher were scrapped because there were few openings in a tough economy in 1974.

Skanes said like many of his generation, it was important that his career was fulfilling.

“We were interested in doing a job that felt like it was important,” he recalled. “My wife and I looked for careers that would be satisfying and exciting and really help people.”

Skanes was a club member of the Boys Club in Lynn, Mass. while growing up in neighboring Saugus. It was only boys then. By the 1960s and ‘70s,  girls were included.

“It was a place where I could go and do some great things,” said Skanes, a graduate of the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. He remembered a game room, racing model cars, a gym, an indoor swimming pool and a snack bar.

In Mount Kisco, the Boys & Girls Club has been around for 75 years. The  community’s support and a dedicated staff that enjoys what it does and has the confidence of parents who know their children will be safe and well-supervised has been the key to its success.

“I think the success of any club is the fact that we have people in the community who care about kids, who provide the resources that create an environment where they can grow and develop,” he said.

“The magic sauce that we have is daily programming, low-cost programming and quality programming provided with a trained professional staff who devote their lives to working with kids. And they have an impact on children’s lives. And I think parents and kids alike like to come here because it’s a good place to come and they have fun and they learn things.”

The club in Mount Kisco has about 1,700 members, Skanes noted. The facility is also rented by outside groups. On an average day, about 500 to 600 youngsters visit the club. The facility, which is also a licensed child care center, has a full-time staff of 25 and up to 50 seasonal part-time employees, he said. About $2 million of the $3.2 million annual budget are staff costs.

All of the funds are raised through fees, special events and an annual fund drive, Skanes said.

“Any CEO of a nonprofit is similar to a CEO of a profit-making enterprise,” he said. “We’re the go-betweens between the board of directors and the staff.”

The club offers a wide variety of services, including a pre-school program; an afterschool program; gym and indoor swimming programs with the Marlins competitive swim team competing against other local swimmers; teen center programs; a community sports program; and a summer camp.

“We’ve really changed a lot,” Skanes said. “At the tail end of the Depression there were a lot of kids that were on the streets and they were just getting in trouble. They were breaking into homes. They were stealing things out of stores. So a bunch of folks got together and said these kids need something to do. So they literally purchased an old school building (on Main Street) and fixed it up.”

For many years, the village’s Recreation Department shared the club, but in 1993 an independent study recommended the department and the club be separated. When Skanes was hired, he would no longer be running a club connected to the village.

“It took some time because you can’t come in and totally change everything,” he said.

Skanes said it won’t be easy for him to leave Mount Kisco.

“I really like the people here, the staff, the board (and) the community,” he said.

Skanes has been active in local organizations, including Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and the President’s Council of Northern Westchester Hospital.

He will be honored by the club with this year’s Humanitarian Award on June 6 at its annual dinner at the Rye Town Hilton.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “I was reluctant to say yes because I think that I do this for a living and the other people who have received this in years past got the award because they’re volunteers. But I’m accepting because I believe in the club.”

No new executive director has been chosen but Skanes had simple guidance for whomever takes his place.

“The only advice I could say is really enjoy it because it’s great experience,” he said. “Just get totally involved in the job and the community and it will be very rewarding for you.”


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