LODI, N.J. — Michael J. Nardino has announced that he is retiring as executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lodi/Hackensack at the end of the year..
“December 31 will be a very sad day for me,” said the 72-year-old native, who served the clubs for 14 years but has been a member since he was a boy.Growing up, Nardino was part of what was formally called the Boys Club.
There was no formal meeting place. Instead, youngsters played baseball on an open field on Sydney Street, now called Kennedy Park. The club, consisting of about 15 boys, was run by Frank Plescia.
“When it rained or it was cold, we didn’t go,” Nardino recalled. “Mr. Plescia would stick us all in his wooden station wagon and take us to games.”
The team traveled, too.
“He had us all under control,” Nardino said. “There were life lessons to be taught there. He was always humble and didn’t ask for any praise. He made an impression on me. He was my idol. I couldn’t believe, years later, what he did for us.”
Nardino's reasons for joining the club were two-fold. He had coached boys Little League baseball and girls softball for 20 years. Then tragic events intervened.
In December 2000, Nardino’s son, John, died of a heart attack. The following year his wife succumbed to an 11-year battle with cancer.
Nardino wanted to get back to helping children.
“I needed a change. It was the best decision I ever made,” Nardino said. “I love the place. My blood is in here.”
Over his tenure, Nardino helped rebuild the Lodi location after Hurricane Irene and also to build the Hackensack location.
Nardino was recently awarded the Paul Patti Humanitarian Award for his efforts.
Joseph Licata will succeed him at the helm.