Bobby Stenstrom, center, along with Melissa Stenstrom and members of the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford – Stenstrom Unit and local dignitaries cut the ribbon on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, after a ceremony to unveil renovations and rename the facility in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
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    ROCKFORD — The Boys & Girls Club of Rockford on Wednesday unveiled $2.2 million in renovations to its west side club and announced a new name for the site.

    The club at 609 Kilburn Ave. will now be called the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford – Stenstrom Unit.

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    The name recognizes the generosity and commitment of Bobby and Melissa Stenstrom, who have supported the work of the Boys & Girls Club for years. They also made a major donation to the club’s renovations. The amount they donated was kept confidential, but Chip Stoner, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford, said it was the largest gift in the club’s 115-year history.

    The Stenstroms are “true friends of this community. True friends of the kids that come to this club each and every day,” Stoner said.

    Bobby Stenstrom, who owns Stenstrom Construction with his sister, Christie Stenstrom Jarrett, said the Boys & Girls Club has been important to him since he joined at age 8 to play basketball. In 2010, he joined the club’s board of directors.

    Dr. Melissa Stenstrom, who owns MD Skin Center, said she and Bobby quickly realized that the Boys & Girls Club was about much more than athletics.

    That’s particularly true at the Stenstrom Unit, where programs include individual tutoring in math and reading to help club members achieve academic success. The club’s data shows youth who receive tutoring there outperform the Rockford Public Schools’ average by 28%.

    “That’s an amazing statistic when you talk about creating a generational change for the future,” Bobby Stenstrom said. “We think this location is paramount to continuing to close the gap and allow all the kids of our communities to have the same opportunities and success.”

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    Renovations began at the facility, the former St. Paul Lutheran School that was built in 1958, in March to improve the heating and add air conditioning.

    Stoner said when they moved into the building in 2019 there would be days where students were overheating in one room while space heaters were needed in another. On some summer days it was too hot to hold programming.

    Aside from the HVAC system, the club also renovated the classroom space with new furnishings that give a more comfortable learning environment for youth in after school programs.

    “Our focus has been academic support, and we wanted to make sure our kids had the best learning environment possible,” Stoner said.

    About 75 kids a day are served at the facility now, and that’s expected to grow to more than 100 per day next year.

    Deylin Flagg, 7, works with tutor Mary George on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in one of the renovated classrooms at the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford – Stenstrom Unit on Kilburn Avenue. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    The club’s new HVAC system uses high-efficiency, all-electric heat pumps with liquid refrigerants to control space temperatures. It also has dedicated outdoor air systems that bring in 100% fresh air using high-quality filters to keep out unwanted airborne particles.

    The power company’s energy efficiency program is designed to help communities lower reliance on fossil fuels by using more energy-efficient technology.

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    Aside from the Stenstrom’s contribution, an incentive from ComEd helped pay for the installation of the HVAC system. The city of Rockford also contributed $150,000, the Winnebago County Board contributed more than $200,000 and the state through grants secured by state Rep. Maurice West and state Sen. Steve Stadelman added nearly a half-million dollars.

    “This center provides young people hope and they see new opportunities,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “This is really a true effort over the city, the county, the state — everyone coming together — to say kids are important. This center is important.”

    Melissa and Bobby Stenstrom talk about why they support the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, during a ceremony to unveil recent renovations and announce renaming the facility after the Stenstroms. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    West said investing in youth is an important way to help reduce crime and create more opportunity for the community’s success in the future.

    “Our young people will see there’s a building on the west side of town that we put money into because we value them, too,” he said.

    Damarion Ashford, 7, works with tutor Mary George on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, at the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford – Stenstrom Unit. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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