OPINION: Celebrating 25 years of Beat the Street

OPINION: Celebrating 25 years of Beat the Street

By Tom Gaffey

Twenty-five years ago, Larry Pelletier opened up the Silver City Boxing Club to provide Meriden inner-city youth an open door for athletic training and competition. A former boxer himself, Larry was convinced that, provided the opportunity; many Meriden kids would focus their energies into bettering themselves instead of being lured into trouble on the street.

Working every afternoon after his day job, Larry grew that small boxing gym into the current Beat the Street Community Center, Inc. A registered 501C3 nonprofit organization, the mission of Beat the Street remains providing inner-city youth and young adults with the opportunity to gain strength, endurance, education and self-esteem to reduce the negative influences found on the street.

While originally designed in 1994 to provide an athletic program based on the sport of boxing, under Larry’s leadership working with the board of directors, Beat the Street has grown to offer other ancillary programs such as Hip Hop & Step Dancing, Weight & Fitness Training, Life Skill workshops, After School workshops, Community Gardening, Career Development, Career Exploration, Soap Box Derby, Reading Enhancement and structured programming such as Open Mic Nights, and community giving programs. Members join together to learn a sport, make friends and more importantly have a safe, supportive environment to overcome obstacles with the support of mentors, coaches and volunteers. That is the alternative for over 600 members that register for our programs annually.

Beat the Street members are primarily in the 7-24 age range and have varied ethnicity, the largest percentage being Latino. Members are primarily from low income households from Meriden public housing, however there is a portion that fall in the low to moderate income category. The varied backgrounds of the members provide a unique and cohesive environment to gain confidence in their skills through the many programs offered at the center. Membership dues are deferred for the majority of members that attend due to their family’s economic hardships. Referrals are made by the school system, community & neighborhood policing, judicial system, social service programs, other recreational programs, clergy and through other members who have benefited from the programs offered by Beat the Street.

Twenty-five years is a long time to pour your heart into helping kids find a better way. Larry Pelletier has done just that and for the majority of those years going unpaid. Larry now has a small staff and volunteers who guide the members through their programs. Likewise, the members of the board of directors all volunteer their time and focus on the overall management of Beat the Street Community Center with major emphasis on human resources, fundraising and finance.

The entire board of directors wholeheartedly congratulates Larry Pelletier, his staff, and all of the volunteer coaches and mentors who gave their time through the years to help Meriden area youth “Beat the Street”. We also genuinely thank all of our grantors, donors and contributors that provide the funding year in and year out to make all our program offerings possible.

Beat the Street is celebrating our 25th anniversary on Saturday evening, November 30th at 6:30 with a Pasta/Comedy Night at the North Italian Home club in Meriden. Please join us and say hello to Larry, eat a great dinner and be entertained by four Hall of Fame comedians including Meriden’s own Doreen Collins (Maloney Class of ‘78). Tickets are $30 and available at Beat the Street Community Center or by calling (203) 213-2136.

Tom Gaffey is chairman of the board of directors, Beat the Street Community Center.