Joliet Boys & Girls Club welcomes new director, hosting open house

Chantel Gamboa eager to serve Joliet’s youth

Chantel Gamboa, new executive director at the Boys & Girls Club in Joliet, poses for a photo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

The Boys & Girls Club of Joliet is inviting the community to celebrate “A New Chapter” with the nonprofit Tuesday.

The event from 5 to 7 p.m. will include a “meet and greet” with Chantel Gamboa, who joined the nonprofit as executive director in April. Other features include a cocktail reception with a cash bar and building tours, highlighting the recent renovations.

“Since 2016, we’ve done over $400,000 worth of building renovations and improvements to the club,” Gamboa said. “And that’s just the start.”

“I am so grateful and privileged to be given the opportunity to do what I love and what I am deeply passionate about; that is serving young people and serving the Joliet community.”

—  Chantel Gamboa, executive director, Boys & Girls Club of Joliet

The main renovation is the new entrance with multiple safety features, including bullet resistance doors and walls, Gamboa said. The carpeting and windows were replaced on the third floor and a second story balcony was added for storage.

A new gym floor was recently installed, and the “deteriorating ceilings” was removed in 2021, Gamboa said. The club swimming pool was also renovated.

The actual building is a former synagogue, which the Jolliet Jewish Congregation donated to the club, according to the Boys & Girls Club of Joliet.

Boys & Girls Club in Joliet on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

Kelly Rohder-Tonelli, board president for the Boys and Girls Club of Joliet, said she’s served on the board for six years and co-chaired the committee to hire Gamboa.

“When Chantel joined the Boys and Girls Club team, there were key aspects of her leadership philosophy that I knew would take the club to the next level in its evolution,” Rhoder-Tonelli said in a written statement. “She’s strong, thoughtful, compassionate, and driven. She places a lot of importance on developing new programming for the kids, especially programs that give them experiential opportunities outside the walls of the club.

“She also understands that progress happens through partnerships, and so she’s leaned into developing community relationships to grow those opportunities. Her passion for the mission matches her commitment to the role.”

Gamboa said the club’s mission – “To enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens” – is what drew her to apply for its executive director role.

“When I hear the statement, ‘especially those who need us the most,’ it’s Inclusive,” Gamboa said in a written statement. “It encompasses all youth. It’s not based upon gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or even ability, it’s ALL young people. Having the opportunity to serve in an organization that seeks to empower youth, an organization that is committed to seeing young people thrive and be successful played a major role in my decision to come to Joliet.

“But also having the opportunity to develop and to lead teams, to cultivate strategic partnerships that will aid in expanding opportunities for program youth, were all the more reasons why I desired to be in this role.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Joliet recently formed new partnerships with the Joliet Fire Department, the Joliet Police Department and Joliet Junior College to support safety at the club. Pictured, from left, are Chantel Gamboa, Joliet Police Chief Bill Evans, Joliet Fire Chief Jeff Carey, Joliet Police Officer Ryan Shaw, Joliet Police Officer John Perri, Board President Kelly Rohder-Tonelli, Deputy Police Chief Tracy Williams, JJC.

A desire to serve the Joliet community

Gamboa said she has worked as an educator/youth development professional for more than 20 years. She began her career as a lead family teacher at Mooseheart Child City and School in Kane County, which also introduced Gamboa to the social service field.

From there, Gamboa developed and built after-school and summer programs for middle school youth in the areas of job readiness, academic enrichment and small group life skills, she said. She also trained youth development staff and volunteers and created systems to “enhance and strengthen programs,” she said in a written statement.

Before coming to the Boys & Girls Club of Joliet, Gamboa worked as a life skills teacher in Downers Grove.

“I believe that all of these roles were strategic in helping me to arrive at this stage in my life,” Gamboa said in a written statement. “I am so grateful and privileged to be given the opportunity to do what I love and what I am deeply passionate about; that is serving young people and serving the Joliet community.”

Gamboa herself knows the value of the Boys & Girls Club.

When she was growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Gamboa and her siblings always participated in summer and after-school programs. A family friend introduced them to a local Boys & Girls Club, which Gamboa started attending when she was 11.

“I remember it so vividly,” Gamboa said. “It was just like the setup in Joliet. You had an open space where the pool table area was that allowed for kids to build community and make connections. It had an outdoor facility where you could engage in sports and recreational activities. The staff was so engaging. It was very welcoming and a great place to go.”

Gamboa said the club is working to reach more middle schoolers and teens through targeted programming and increasing accessibility.

Enrollment at the Boys & Girls Club was 400 to 500 youth ages 6 to 18 before the pandemic, she said, and 1,200 youth at its height. The Boys & Girls Club of Joliet serves 200 youth.

“It’s critical that we reach all youth,” Gamboa said.

Boys & Girls Club in Joliet on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

Know more about the Boys & Girls Club of Joliet

1951: Edward N. Gosselin and John B. Anderson initiated the forming of the Boy Club in Joliet.

1952: The club opened in January in the Salvation Army building for only four months.

1953: The first board of directors was formed with Robert K Anderson elected board president.

1954: The Boys Club purchased its first permanent home June 1 on Bluff Street, renovated it and then opened it to 250 members in November. The club was renamed the George Werden Buck Boys Club after board president George Buck unexpectedly died.

1965: The Boys Club moved to its current location in July of 1965.

1968: A swimming pool was constructed.

1976: The club extended its membership to girls in March.

1978: On Feb. 11, a fore extensively damaged all three floors.

1991: The Boys Club named was changed to Boys and Girls Club.

2023: The club currently serves 200 youth between the ages of 6 to 18.


WHAT: “A New Chapter” open house

WHEN: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Boys and Girls Club of Joliet, 226 E Clinton St., Joliet

ETC: Meet and greet, building tours, cocktail reception with cash bar

INFO: Call 815-723-3434 or visit