LACONIA — Whether it's an artwork or a good person, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and for many years as a Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Ed Rushbrook has helped to produce both.
A semi-retired civil engineer who calls Gilford home, Rushbrook grew up in Pittsfield, Mass. where he attended what was then known as the Pittsfield Boys Club.
"The club did a lot for me," said Rushbrook, who was the youngest of three siblings raised in a single-parent household and who began attending the Pittsfield club at age 10.
At the club, Rushbrook climbed the ladder of responsibility, first handing out pool cues to fellow members and then serving in various positions — counselor, cook and lifeguard — at its summer camp. In 1961, Rushbrook was "Boy of the Year" at the Pittsfield club.
A graduate of Pittsfield High School, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Maine, Orono, where he earned his master's degree, Rushbrook took his first art class at the Pittsfield Boys Club and was immediately smitten.
Now working and teaching others to master pastels, charcoal and pencil, Rushbrook also realized that at the club he was learning a lot more than just how to draw a pretty picture.
"The Boys and Girls Club taught me honesty, hard work and respect for your fellow man," Rushbrook said recently, "and because the club did so much for me, that's why I'm so happy to donate anything I can."
Since moving to New Hampshire in 1978, the "anything" that Rushbrook has donated has been his time, experience and insight, volunteering first as an art instructor at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Concord and later doing the same in Laconia in 2007 when the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region — which began in 1999 as the Belknap County Teen Center — became part of the Boys and Girls Club of America.
When the Lakes Region club last fall announced a $2.4 million capital campaign to acquire and transform the former St. James Episcopal Church into its first "forever home," Rushbrook promptly stepped up. To promote greater awareness of the effort, he offered personal testimonials for a publicity initiative and also donated a painting which will be auctioned at the club's upcoming Spring Fling gala.
A member of the Lakes Region Art Association, Rushbrook has also advanced the mission of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region by simply doing what he loves: teaching art.
Every Monday afternoon, Rushbrook directs some two dozen youths in the finer points of fine art, explaining "You can do it your entire life. Art's not expensive and you'll always advance as an artist. As I tell the kids, nothing pleases a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle more than receiving a hand-made gift created by them."
While thrilled by helping his charges improve their artistic skills, Rushbrook is especially happy that he can do so under the auspices of the Boys and Girls Club.
"Without question, the Boys and Girls Club has really shaped my life and given me direction," Rushbrook summed up, "and that's why I'm so willing to help the club achieve success with kids. People need to realize how valuable the club can be in shaping kids today."
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region's capital campaign, contact the club at 528-0197 or go to www.lakeskids.org.
Cutline for courtesy photo: With her teacher Ed Rushbrook looking on proudly, Arianna, a student at Elm Street School in Laconia and also in Rushbrook's art class at the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, poses with one of her recent creations. (Courtesy photo)