The Boys & Girls Club of Erie helps about 1200 children each year at its complex on East Lake Road.

The club offering many different activities to help kids from disadvantaged families build self esteem and succeed.

Longtime Executive Director Al Messina thinks the club is more important than ever  with youth violence a major community problem.

He said, "I think it is vitally important particularly given the fact that we have all of these social problems with violence occurring, particularly in this area of town."

A mission of the club is to allow the members, ages 6-18, to master new skills, to help them grow and feel better about themselves.

Messina said, "Give every kid an opportunity to discover their talent, their interests, then we nurture them."

Another part of the club's mission is to nurture close relationships between club members and adult staffers and volunteers, with the adults providing guidance and encouragement.

Director of Operations John Popoff said, "They can see they can be successful because we tell them that you can do whatever you want to do. Academically we will help them, socially we will help them. So they know they are going to make it."