For more than half a century, Martin L. Mathews has dedicated his life to community service. A champion for youth, he co-founded a club initially designed to provide structured recreational activities to young men in his north St. Louis neighborhood. Mathews received an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 2013.
Today, the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club provides cultural, educational and athletic programs to a diverse population of more than 40,000 young men and women, ages 5-18, throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. Many of these youth hail from low- to moderate-income families.
By forging relationships with business and civic leaders and developing innovative programs, Mathews helped create a national model.
In 1960, while coaching a boys’ baseball team, Mathews met another neighborhood youth coach, the late Hubert “Dickey” Ballentine.
The men shared a mutual concern: keeping young men on the fields and off the streets.
Demonstrating commitment to the youth
From that meeting, came a baseball league, then a small storefront building for club meetings, to eventually, after a multimillion-dollar campaign, a facility equipped with an Olympic-size pool, basketball gymnasiums, community meeting and music rooms, computer and tutorial labs, and administrative offices.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan dedicated the new facility, declaring it a model for the country, and presented the co-founders with the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Since then, the club has continued to grow in size and scope with such additions as the James “Cool Papa” Bell multipurpose outdoor athletic complex, a 19,000 square-foot Girls´ Program expansion wing and the Bob Russell Park in North County. In 2001, the club officially became the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club.
Among the programs offered to combat teen idleness and illiteracy are Computer Literacy Instruction, Urban Music, Summer Day Camp, “The Sky is the Limit” and “Maleness to Manhood Workshop Series.” These activities supply youth with education, cultural awareness, job training and mentors.
For his dedication to youth, he has received numerous honors, including A&E Biography Community Heroes, the FBI´s Director’s Community Leadership Award, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat’s Humanitarian Award and Focus St. Louis’ What’s Right with the Region! Award.