In the early 1930’s, during the Depression, while driving on Buffalo’s “West Side”, Mrs. Roscoe B. Mitchell saw six young boys playing in a makeshift clubhouse on the side of the house. Having just lost her son, Edward, in an auto accident she ordered her driver to go around the block so she could approach those boys. As she pulled up the boys were in shock- What is a rich person doing in the Italian ghetto? Mrs. Mitchell did not see poor boys; she saw young men, like her son, who needed a safe place where they could hang out. After meeting the boys, Mrs. Mitchell went home with a very warm heart. It was so warm she decided to buy an old barn on Efner Street. This building was given to the boys in the neighborhood on the condition that they respect the memory of her son. Edward. In 1933, the building was named The Butler Mitchell Boys Club.
Membership grew so rapidly that new quarters were sought. A church building at 254 Virginia Street was rented and programs were moved to this location. The building had a gymnasium in addition to a game room. Along with the building came James Mann and Eli Bongiovanni. These gentlemen were able to recruit a graduate of Canisius College to become the Physical Education Director; this was Al Guarnieri. “Al”, as he liked his associates to call him, was a master at getting boys to do things they never thought they could do. He was a man who earned the respect of every person he touched. Many would agree that Ed Butler Mitchell sent us “Al” through his mother’s prayers for her son. Al Guarnieri helped mold thousands of young men from 1933-1956. He mentored people like Joe “Bye” Biondolillo, John Bellanti, Paul Missana, Carm Battaglia, Ben Constantino, Phil and Len Serfustini, and Rocco Lamparelli. These men were directly affected by “Al” and all became pillars in our community.
In 1955 The Boys Club of Buffalo and The Boys Club of the Niagara Frontier jointly sponsored a campaign to raise enough money to erect a new building on Buffalo’s West Side. April 26 saw the dedication of the new building at 370 Massachusetts Avenue. This was to be known as the Butler Mitchell Virginia Street Branch. Shortly after “Massachusetts” opened Al Guarnieri passed away doing what he did best, which was coaching. The next man to step-up and carry-on the Butler Mitchell Boys Club tradition was Joe “Bye”. Joe was a great student of Al, and like Al, mentored many young men including Nick Bonifacio, Nate Bliss, Nick Morterlarro, Paul Fitzgerald, Ed Lazzaro, and many others. When Joe passed away the next man to pick up the torch was Nick Bonifacio. “Nick”, as he liked to be called, was the direct prodigy of all the mentors in Butler Mitchell history. Nick’s whole life was dedicated to Butler Mitchell. Some say, if they did an autopsy on Nick they would find a little of every man mentioned in this article. Nick went on to mentor hundreds of young men.
Throughout the years, the two clubs have served over 20,000 boys and girls. As you can imagine, it takes money to run these clubs, therefore the Butler Mitchel Alumni was formed. Over its 50 years, the alumni have raised and spent over $1,000,000.00 (Million dollars) on kids. Even though severing ties with the boys and girls clubs of Buffalo in 1998 we still spend Tens of thousands of dollars every year on kids and senior programs in the Western New York area. More importantly, we continue to spread the rich traditional values of Butler Mitchell. The alumni is committed to show their appreciation to Mrs. Roscoe B. Mitchell and her beloved son Edward Butler Mitchell by keeping the name Butler Mitchell to the highest standards.