For the better part of a century, the Don Bosco Community Center has played an important role in the lives of Port Chester residents. Founded in 1928, it was built by Italian immigrants as a school, a community center, and a neighborhood-gathering place. In later years, it served the Irish and Polish populations that came to the Village, and today serves the Hispanic and African-American community of Port Chester.
The Center evolved to meet the needs of each new group. In the early years, Don Bosco was commonly referred to as “The House of Champions” due to its dominance of the local sports scene. The Center also fulfilled a vocational role as the place where Italian men gathered to find work during the pre-war years and paid a nickel to use the facilities’ showers, which overcrowded tenement apartments often lacked. The third floor housed a job-training program, library and printing press, as well as a barber and tailor shop where immigrant workers could learn a craft. By the mid 20th century, the vibrant Don Bosco community was also home to a bowling alley in what is now the cafeteria and soup kitchen. Young men found jobs as pinsetters earning 10 cents per game. The gymnasium often doubled as a reception hall for weddings and theatrical performances for the general public.
Not immune to the recession of the 1970s, the Don Bosco Community Center was forced to close its doors for most of the decade. Through the support of the United Way, the Center began a slow revitalization process with funding for new youth programs and building improvements. With the Port Chester-sponsored Senior Center making its home at Don Bosco, a deeper connection within the community began to develop. In 2001, the Don Bosco Boys and Girls Club opened and today serves nearly 600 at-risk children and teens as members. In addition to school-year youth programming and the Don Bosco Summer Camp, the Center broadened its outreach to the local community by investing in social service programs including a soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing distribution, and other emergency services.