The Older Members Association - History
The Older Members Association is a unique alumni and volunteer organization that has been an integral part of the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol since 1923. The purpose of the organization is to help youth develop and grow and to further the mission and purpose of the Club. Since its origin, the Association has contributed over one million dollars and tens of thousands of volunteer hours to the Club and its members.
The Older Members Association was founded in 1923. In the early years, there wasn’t any provision for young boys reaching the age of eighteen or graduating from high school to remain active members of the Club. Four young men, having reached the age of eighteen, had a strong desire to assist James “Chief” Dobson, then superintendent of the Club, by volunteering their time with many of the Club’s activities.
The four young men were J. Herbert Carlson, Harold A. Cook, Francis King and Mel White. In order to fulfill their desire, Chief Dobson founded the organization we now call the Older Members Association. The first ever meeting of the organization was held on November 8, 1923.
In 1941, The OMs staged their first annual show. It was an amateur talent show and was the only show of its kind in the area. It quickly became a leading community event in Bristol. Today, the OM Show remains as the longest continuously running variety show of its kind in the USA.
In 1927, the organization sponsored an event honoring the Bristol High basketball team. That event continued annually and evolved over the years, becoming the Annual Recognition Dinner in 1948, at which time the first “Boy of the Year” award was initiated. This award was given to a Club member who had distinguished himself in the areas of character, achievement and leadership.
Today the award is named “Youth of the Year” and honors an outstanding boy or girl. The Annual Recognition Dinner continues today and is still sponsored by the OMs. Oliver Gaudreau was one of the first members of the organization and was an active member for over 70 years. In his honor, the Oliver Gaudreau Lifetime Service Award was created and is presented to an OM at the annual Humanitarian Dinner.
The OMs have put their hearts into the Club’s mission and their ideas, enthusiasm and hard work has been a benefit to countless youth and families. All money raised by the Association continued to support many of the programs and activities at the Club.