Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield executive director on leave of absence


PITTSFIELD -- Longtime Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield Executive Director Peter E. Bell is on a paid leave of absence from the organization, but the club's board has declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the move.

John C. Donna, president of the Boys & Girls Club's board of directors for the last 20 years and a Pittsfield attorney, said Bell's leave went into effect on Oct. 23, but he declined to elaborate. He also did not say how long Bell's leave would be.

David J. Harte Jr., the organization's director of operations, is now handling responsibilities for the office of the executive director and he also will continue to manage the club's operations with the help of other long-term employees.

Donna said the club's mission to serve youth and families has not been affected by the administrative change.

"The doors are open and programs are up and operating," Donna said on Thursday. "The staff there is seasoned and understands what to do. If people want to come down for a tour, they're welcome to do so."

Bell is a club alumnus who joined the staff of the Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield in 1982 as the aquatics and program director and as director of the club-operated Camp Russell in Richmond, according to a profile of him listed on the organization's website.

He holds a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. He was named executive director by the board of trustees in 1999, making him the seventh executive of the organization since its creation in 1899 by Zenas Crane.

During his tenure, Bell oversaw the completion of a four-year, $3 million renovation to the club's 16 Melville St. location, a 120,000-square-foot facility. The renovation was funded through an anonymous gift of stock shares. The once-worthless shares turned into a $13.9 million windfall when the shares were sold in December 2006.

Harte, according to the same website, has been a staff member for the past 12 years, and is also an alumnus. He holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Westfield State College.

Harte did respond to a request from The Eagle for comment but deferred to Donna as board president and the designated spokesman on the matter.

The Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield currently has approximately 5,000 members and includes a wide range of youth-centered programming, including: recreational and competitive athletics for youths; after-school homework and student support; middle school nights; a café; art and woodworking programs; summer camps; mentoring and youth leadership programs; and licensed nursery school and daycare services.

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