A friend of mine at Seed, Chan, and Associates, Jason Chan, posted that the Law firm is donating money to the Boys and Girls Club of New Bedford. As the video played my CVN radar kicked in and I thought, that the Executive Director, Rob Mendes, is probably Cape Verdean. In other words this would be something more than I would just click “like” or “share” on. I wanted to know what the relationship was. As it turns out, John Seed is from New Bedford and played basketball under Rob Mendes at age 7 and continued to be part of the Boys And Girls Club of New Bedford all through his youth. In fact even while attending New England School of Law, where he met my friend Jason Chan, he would go back to New Bedford and work at the Boys and Girls Club from 6-9pm. Jason Chan and I met, because well, our father’s jumped ship together. But that story is perhaps for another blog.
When John and his firm saw that they had a good year and had an opportunity to give back they did. “The club is really something that benefits the whole community and is something that we want to try and get everyone to rally behind.”
In a phone conversation Rob Mendes spoke about the club, “We have a strong focus on low income and disadvantaged households so we keep the fee,” which is just $50 a year… though if you watch the video he says that no child will be turned away for not being able to pay, which is why it is so important to get donations from the public to keep the club and its programs up and running.
Rob Mendes also said that the Boys and Girls Club, “Has a very diverse membership and a large number of Cape Verdean youths.” He spoke about how it is interesting because while John Seed was working at the Boys and Girls Club, most of the staff was Cape Verdean. And so it came to be that John learned a great deal about Cape Verdean culture and some of his best friends are actually the people who he grew up with at the club, many of them Cape Verdean.
Rob Mendes, is not only Cape Verdean but was elected Grand Martial to lead the Cape Verde Recognition parade in New Bedford, that takes place around July 5th, the Cape Verde day of Independence.
He mentioned that he truly values the tradition of looking after one another, which is a very strong tradition in the older generations of the Cape Verdean Community. When he grew up, everyone was Aunt or Uncle, even if they weren’t necessarily blood. And he feels the sense that it takes the whole community to raise a child is being somewhat lost in the up and coming Cape Verdean youth, which may be moving more toward a materialistic culture, and there are efforts now to try and bring that sense of community back. John Seed spoke to his experience at the Boys and Girls Club as an effort to bring these ideals back to the whole community. “There are a lot of families now that may have substance abuse issues, or income issues who really need this Club. And it was difficult marching kids out the door at 9pm sometimes, because you really don’t know what their going home to.”
To Mendes, that older value system of togetherness makes for a better community for everyone. He mentioned too that one of his regrets is not having learned the Cape Verdean language. Perhaps because his grandparents passed away before he was born. “I feel that they would have made it a requirement,” he laughed. But he still picked up a few words and mentioned talking to some of the youth in Cape Verdean who would do a double take and say, “You speak Kriolu?” in surprise. At some point Rob said that he would ask these young children to teach him, to help him with learning a language he did not have the opportunity to learn in his youth.
And so through the Boys and Girls Club some of the value systems of the past are not only passed on to the youth, but the youth are helping some older generations rekindle the language of their grandparents.
This being the holiday for giving, I am going to put a link here to the Boys and Girls Club of New Bedford website, where you can donate or volunteer. The Wareham branch is also under the same Charter as the New Bedford Branch, which also holds the honor of being the third oldest Boys and Girls Club in the country.