The history of the Don Bosco Centers has always been closely tied to the neighborhood and people we serve. Our story starts in the late 1930’s with the Italian community in Columbus Park. Every community has a heart, a place for people to gather, share, learn, and celebrate. The Italian-Americans of northeast Kansas City created their own with the help of Holy Rosary Parish.
Money and property were donated, and members of the Holy Name Society and the surrounding community all pitched in with their individual talents. From the time the cornerstone was laid, the Don Bosco Community Center took one year to build. The organization officially opened its doors on September 8, 1940. Because they built the Don Bosco Community Center with their own hands, it truly became the heartbeat of the neighborhood. It was a place to play sports, learn a craft, dance until dawn, catch a movie, see a play, hear a speaker, celebrate the new year, listen to the orchestra, have dinner, and connect with friends.
As the decades went by, some Italian families moved away and new people took their places, with different traditions and speaking a variety of languages. The Don Bosco Centers evolved to meet the needs of the changing neighborhood. In tribute to the founders’ immigrant heritage, the Don Bosco Centers began to reach out to new immigrants by offering English classes and partnering with the Refugee Resettlement Program, which evolved into the agency’s Nationalities Center (this Center was transferred to Jewish Vocational Services in 2003). Remnants of the Nationalities Center remained at Don Bosco in the form of the English as a Second Language Center.
In 1974, the Senior Center was created, and in 1990, ground was broken for a dedicated building. Also, 1990 saw the addition of the Counseling and Family Support Centers. The Don Bosco Charter High School was established in 2000 and, in its 12 years of educating, graduated over 600 students who would otherwise not have received their high school diplomas. Over the decades, the Don Bosco Centers has continued to offer youth programs through its original Youth Development Center.
In 2011, the Charter School closed, and in 2012, Don Bosco underwent reorganization to streamline the organization to refocus on our core programs of helping Seniors and disabled adults, and providing English as a Second Language to immigrants and refugees. Lean and efficient, Don Bosco is serving even more people in the community than ever before – touching the lives of 1,300 people each day.