Boys & Girls Club Holds 80th Anniversary Gala

Warmth and Enthusiasm Permeates Event

Boardmember and Event Co-chair Carolyn McCall, Executive Director and Event Co-chair Laurie Leis, and Boardmember and Event Co-chair Katie Hoegh-Guldberg.

Gail Arnold

Boardmember and Event Co-chair Carolyn McCall, Executive Director and Event Co-chair Laurie Leis, and Boardmember and Event Co-chair Katie Hoegh-Guldberg.

On May 12, about 225 supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara celebrated at its 80th Anniversary Gala on the lovely grounds of the Heartstone Ranch in Carpinteria. The event netted about $120,000 for the club’s after-school and summer programs, which serve primarily low-income youth. Though falling short of its goal, the funds were a welcome infusion after a fall-off in donations following the twin disasters.

Guests clad in country chic attire for this California Ranch-themed event mingled on the scenic terrace while perusing silent auction items and enjoying tunes from the club’s own Jazz Villains. Guests were then seated on the beautiful, adjacent lawn, where they were greeted by Emcee Janet Garufis, who explained that after 80 years, the club has grown to serve more than 1,700 members, age 6 to 18, with after school programs, sports leagues, and other opportunities. The club is “a bedlam of activity, fun, and chaos,” where the kids have such a good time. But it’s about much more than fun. Garufis explained how there is one-on-one math tutoring, hands-on science classes, homework assistance, and many other learning opportunities. To further its mission of providing character building and educational programs for all children, the club charges only $40 per year, relying on donors for the bulk of its funding. When schools were closed this past winter due to the disasters, the club opened its doors all day to all kids at no charge.

State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson and State Assemblymember Monique Limón presented the club with a Joint Resolution from the State Senate and Assembly for its 80 years of service. Limón, who is an alumnus of the club, enthusiastically thanked the club for investing in students like herself. Jackson passionately described how the club, through its wide assortment of programs, gives kids the self confidence they need and enables them to flourish. She noted that many of the kids have parents who must work two or three jobs so can’t be home after-school, making the club especially valuable for these kids.

Executive Director Laurie Leis shared how when she was hired last year, she learned that there were about 30 kids whose parents couldn’t afford the extra $10 weekly fee for extended care from 8 am to 10 am when summer camp opened, so they were being dropped off at the curb where they waited for two hours. Finding this unacceptable, Leis appealed to area foundations for funds so the club can now offer the camp at $25 per week with no extra fees for extended care and full scholarships for qualifying kids.

Events typically include a thank you to major sponsors, but this event, fittingly, had a twist. Leis warmly gave a “We love you” shout out to each sponsor. This caring, passionate spirit permeated the event, with alumni giving touching testimonials and many hands being raised during the auction and the ask. Boardmember Tim Casey, his wife Louise Casey and the S.B. Airbus donated for the auction a trip for 20 to an infield loge box at Dodger Stadium. Fellow boardmember David Beard and his wife, Tracy Beard, had the winning bid at $5,500, and turned around and gave it to the club’s teen staff.

The club is located across the street from S.B. High School, a block from S.B. Junior High, and transportation is provided from five elementary schools. Eighty-four percent of members come from low income households. In addition to what was mentioned in the program, the club offers a complete computer program, music instruction and a recording studio, year round athletics (soccer, basketball, football, karate, dance) and an extensive art studio/workshop. Healthy meals are provided along with additional weekly activities like equestrian therapy, culinary instruction, multiple leadership programs, as well as college prep, financial planning and legal assistance classes. In addition to the 1,870 members, the Club serves about 2,000 other youth by making its facilities available to other groups and through special programs.

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