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Mattydale: Group leaves a legacy

A community leader has closed its doors, but that doesn't mean it's done helping.

The Third Ward Men's Club, also known as the Third Ward Community Club, shut down earlier this year due to declining membership and the increasing costs of maintaining their building. However, in shutting down, the organization gave one more gift to the young people of the community, those it was sworn to aid. The club liquidated its assets and made sizable donations to several area youth organizations.

"All but six of us are over 75," said member Victor Russo. "What do I need the money for? I'd rather give it to the kids."

The club was founded by returning veterans in 1944. The men took over a former bunker located on Brookfield Road, moved it to Roxboro Road and expanded it.

Russo and his brother Anthony, the club's president, had been part of the organization for 36 and 38 years, respectively.

"We knew the founders back in the 1960s when we were 175 members strong," Victor Russo said. "There were waiting lists."

But that boom eventually faded and the club began to shrink. "In this kind of organization, people pass on or get sick," Russo said. "The younger generation's not interested. We got down to just 20 members. Our only source of income was renting out the property on Fridays and Saturdays for weddings and things."

Those rentals paid the bills and kept the club afloat for a few more years. However, soon the building, now more than 60 years old, began to fall apart.

"The roof went bad," Russo said. "We got a grant from Assemblyman Bragman to fix that and refurbish the outside. In 2005, Assemblywoman Christensen got us another grant to refurbish the inside. But the sewer kept plugging up, and it was $200 to $300 every time we had to have someone take a look at it. Finally a company went in with a camera and told us the clay pipes were collapsing and it would cost $7,000 to $10,000 to replace it."

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