By Tony E. Windsor

As the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club plans to celebrate 25 years of service to western Sussex County communities, a former city leader has made plans to join in the celebration. Former Seaford Mayor Guy Longo is taking special pride in the organization’s landmark celebration and considers it one of the highlights of his tenure as the city’s leader.

Longo recounts how while preparing to author a scheduled city resolution he was at his office at city hall and happened to notice an article in a newspaper that was lying on his desk. 

“As I began to write the resolution, I brushed away a newspaper that was in the way. As I did, I noticed an article stating that a Boys & Girls Club was being planned for Dover,” he said. “That stopped me in my tracks and a big lightbulb went off. I thought, this might open the door for the possibility of Boys & Girls Club expansion into Sussex County, possibly Seaford.”

Longo said he stopped what he was doing and went by the office of then assistant city manager, the late Ron Breeding. Breeding had been instrumental over the years in helping to develop youth programming in the community through the Seaford Department of Parks & Recreation. When Longo shared his thoughts about the potential of a Boys & Girls Club locating in Seaford, Breeding made contact with Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware leadership including President/CEO George Krupanski and head of Resource Development Jim Logullo. He was informed that they would be happy to meet with a Seaford delegation.

Longo said he and Breeding traveled to Wilmington and met with Krupanski and Logullo and eventually were invited to meet with the organization’s Board of Directors. After positive interactions it was agreed that Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware would be interested in coming to Seaford. “At that meeting we were informed that Boys & Girls Clubs was highly interested and would commit to build a state-of-the-art club in Seaford if the city was willing to commit to raising a significant portion of the estimated $4 million project costs. Ron and I huddled for a few minutes and then told the board we could raise the money,” Longo said.

When asked how he could be so confident about raising the funds necessary to satisfy the Boys & Girls Club’s stipulation on supporting the construction of a club in Seaford, Longo said he knew just the man who could help make it happen: Seaford educator, counselor and coach, John Hollis.

“I knew that John [Hollis] was an extremely respected person, not only in Seaford, but throughout the state,” he said.  “He had many contacts and I knew how much he was interested in working for the betterment of our local youth as he had done in the many years he spent in teaching, coaching and mentoring our young people. Ron [Breeding] agreed wholeheartedly.”

After returning to Seaford, Longo brought the concept of a Seaford-based Boys & Girls Club to the attention of City Manager Dolores Slatcher. After agreeing it was a worthwhile project for the city, she took the proposal before the full city council. During the June 11, 1997, Seaford City Council meeting, the council approved a plan to move forward with the B&G Club project. The city also approved the donation of 17-acres of land fronting Virginia Avenue, next door to the Seaford Police Department and across the street from the Seaford High School, that would house the club building.

Longo said he is proud of what the community was able to do to ensure that the city was able to bring a youth agency as nationally respected as Boys & Girls Clubs to the area. “When asked, John Hollis agreed to head up this venture and Ron [Breeding] was more than excited to join him in this huge undertaking,” he said. “At this point I knew the project was in good hands so I stepped aside and let them go to work. What they were able to accomplish with the support of likeminded community members, is nothing less than as minor miracle. I am so proud of all who participated in, and worked diligently, to make a dream of mine happen.”

Longo, who was born in 1942 in Scranton, Pa., said he lived in a neighborhood that was fortunate to have a “Boy’s Club,” what today is known as the Boys & Girls Club.

“There were several ethnic backgrounds in the neighborhood and there were plenty of boys to support the club,” he said. “In my case, I never lived more than four blocks from the club and spent most of life from the ages of 8 to 18 at the club. My mother asked me many times why I spent so much time at the club. My answer was always the same ‘because we don’t have a basketball court at home, Mom’.”

He said the Scranton club was a two story brick building. A basketball court consumed most of the second floor and there was a small weight room and some mats for wrestling. On the first floor, there were two pool tables, two ping pong tables, a small music room and a small room with a 17- inch black and white television. 

“That television room was jam packed every day at 3:30 p.m. when we gathered to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. So, this is why I have had a deep interest in and love for a Boys, and now Girls, Club. I knew the major positive influence it had on my growing up,” Longo said. “I am excited to congratulate the Seaford Boys & Girls Club for its first 25 years.”

Longo said he plans to attend the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club’s 25th Anniversary Celebration to be held on Jan. 26, at the Ross Station Event Center, 585 N. Market St., Seaford. The event will honor the anniversary of the club and also pay tribute to some of those individuals who were instrumental in the beginnings of the club.