ABOUT FRIENDS OF BERSTON
Building on (Cultivating) Berston's legacy as a unique place for individual and community enrichment through education, athletics, the arts and community service.
A recognized place of hope and achievement for the entire community.
FRIENDS OF BERSTON BACKGROUND
Friends of Berston (FOB) was formed in 2014 as a non-profit, housed in the historic Berston Field house to keep the facility operational. At that time, City of Flint was no longer financially able to keep its recreational and community centers open, due to its insolvency.
Berston Field House was built in 1923 on land donated by children of Flint land developer and philanthropist, Neil J. Berston. Mr. Berston, at the turn of the century, had the foresight to buy and transform farm land into the residential neighborhoods surrounding what is now Berston Field House. The field house was named in honor of this generous visionary, and after 94 years of existence, the building remains structurally sound as is Berston’s place in the community among its patrons who range from the very young to senior citizens.
The field house is just north of downtown Flint. When initially built, Berston was a state of the art field house. As stated earlier, it is still structurally sound, but in need of some renovations. Friends of Berston, through the hard work of its board of directors and its current executive director, Bryant Nolden (who initially was its volunteer director for about 6 years) secured funding from private foundations and individual donors. That funding now provides Berston Field House a paid executive director—Bryant Nolden, who has proven himself to be a dedicated administrator. The funding also provides him an executive assistant, a grant coordinator and an events coordinator.
Friends of Berston’s Mission Statement is: Enhancing the impact of Berston through quality education, athletics, the arts and comprehensive social services. This mission is in keeping with all that Berston Field House has been in the past for the community in which it is situated. In the past, it offered a wide range of sports which included swimming—the pool was removed several years ago. It had a branch of the Flint Public Library inside, as well as a small medical clinic to assist those who were unable to afford medical services. Friends of Berston does not want to just maintain Berston for now, but plans to restore it to its former glory for future generations to enjoy as well.
Currently, patrons can participate in sports, a variety of dance classes which includes senior line dance classes, arts and crafts, and even chess. Plans are in place to house a success center within the field house where patrons in need of honing their literacy skills can come for assistance. Friends of Berston truly intends to carry on the tradition of Berston Field House for all its patrons.
What is Friends of Berston (FOB)?
Friends of Berston is a non-profit formed in 2014 to provide over-site of the historic Berston Field House to ensure that the facility remains operational for the community’s recreational usage.
Why was Friends of Berston formed?
Friends of Berston was formed when the City of Flint’s (COF)budgetary short-fall prevented it from being able to continue to fully support its community and recreational centers.
How is Friends of Berston funded?
Friends of Berston is funded by private foundations, corporations, individual donors, and FOB fund-raising events. Our funding sources share our belief that Berston Field House is important for the well-being of Flint residents.
What’s Berston’s significance to the community?
Berston Field House has been in existence since 1923 when it was built and since that time, it has been utilized by community members for a variety of sports activities, dance, and the arts. At one time, it had a branch of the Flint Public library, and a swimming pool, as well as a medical clinic. Many athletic greats honed their skills in Berston Field House and continue to consider it to have been an important stepping stone in reaching their professional status.
Who were those “Athletic Greats”?
Justin Thigpin Sr. who was also a director at Berston Field House, played for the Detroit Pistons.
Basketball greats, Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves made it possible for Michigan State University to win the Division 1 NCAA championship (also known as the Flintstones) in 2000.
Most recently, Claressa Shields has won the Olympic Championship in the newly created women’s boxing division for the second time, and has successfully won all her fights since she
became a professional fighter.
What are the plans of FOB for Berston Field House’s future?
Friends of Berston’s board of directors and staff are poised to not just renovate Berston Field house, but to again make it a state-of-the-art facility. Plans have been drawn by professional architects that provide for more space and modern amenities. Everyone is excited about the
possibilities of not just keeping the doors open for now, but well into the future, for future generations.
"With appropriate resources, Berston will have an even greater positive impact on the community and individuals who use its programs and services."
- Louis Hawkins
"Berston Field House has served as a gateway to greatness by letting us - as a community - create a setting open to every citizen, creating a public platform for our people to grow and develop and to reach for the stars - even dare to become Olympic gold medal winners."
- Senator Don Riegle Jr.