Young people have the potential to be true leaders when a community joins together to help them achieve their goals, and the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County’s 30th annual “Stand Up for Kids” auction held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort raised more than $153,000 to foster and ensure the continued educational development and future success of local youths.
More than 5,000 members strong, the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County is open year-round, all day during the summer months and school holidays serving children ages 5 to 18. The clubs offer a range of social and recreational activities and educational programs in health, sports, art and music, and outreach programs that aim to promote civic responsibility, build character, instill life-enhancing values and provide a safe alternative during non-school hours.
An impressive number of proud parents and community, civic and educational partners strolled along the upper level of the resort’s spectacular oceanview rotunda at the folds of sunset for cocktails and appetizers.
Michael Rattray, CEO of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, was all smiles as he made his way through the throng of people, chatting, shaking hands and exchanging hugs with friends, staff, parents, teachers and community supporters.
“The mission and vision for the Untied Boys & Girls Clubs is to make a positive difference in the lives of our young people,” he said. “Our year-round programs are structured to promote community outreach, leadership, fitness, health and education. It’s important to keep our kids proactive in the learning process. We are also concentrating our efforts to assist parents and teachers to close the achievement gap through fun learning activities and after-school programs.”
The atmosphere was spirited as partygoers mingled among the dozens of silent auction items showcased for bid, including autographed guitars from rock and country legends U2, the Eagles and Garth Brooks with authentic, colorful air-blown glass, vases, vessels and lamps created by artist Saul Alcaraz, owner of Santa Barbara Art Glass, and much more.
Youth club members wearing blue jeans and brightly colored T-shirts representing the five club branches located in Carpinteria, Goleta, Santa Barbara Westside, Lompoc and Camp Whittier also circulated among the masses, charming the adult guests with their endless abundance of enthusiasm.
Carolyn Chau, 15, who has been a member at the Goleta Club for 10 years, said she joined the club because her mom worked long hours and she didn’t have a safe place to go to after school. Chau told Noozhawk that being a club member has changed her life.
“The programs offered at the club teach us about goal planning, graduating and financing so that as teens we can move on with our lives,” she said. “I’ve been involved with Keystone, a leadership project where we go around town helping our community. And Smart Girls is a program that gathers all the girls in the club and teaches them about girl things, important topics and issues that they forget about in health class. And Goals for Graduation helps students create and achieve the goals to graduate and prepare for college.”
“Some of the programs have taught me things that my parents were not able to teach me, or that I wouldn’t have been able to learn from school, like financing and leadership skills is a big example,” she said. “These types of programs are offered at the club, where I can learn instead of feeling lost when I’m in college. I now have a solid platform to start.”
At dusk, the crowd moved to the main-floor Plaza del Sol patio decorated with luminous navy and ivory colored lanterns over tables laden with romantic candlelight and photos of founders and former presidents. The spirit of the evening was coupled with adorable personalized cards from various youth club members expressing gratitude in the form of thank you notes on each table that served to delight and inspire the jovial crowd who settled in for dinner and an award presentation.
Master of ceremonies Randy Weiss welcomed the onlookers and paid tribute to the sponsors, donors and civic leaders. Then the audience was asked to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by a beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful” by Melissa Gough and a lively dance performance from youth club members.
Sal Rodriguez, a retired volunteer for the Goleta Boys and Girls Club, helps oversee the club’s after-school programs and has previously served in various leadership positions for more than 50 years. Rodriguez, who was appointed as the Goleta club’s unit director for 20 years and later served as an executive director at the club for another 13 years, presented the evening honoree, George Chelini, with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
During his introduction, Rodriguez explained to onlookers that Chelini has a rich history with the organization spanning more than 38 years.
Chelini began his career working in the library at the Santa Barbara Club in 1955, and after graduating from UCSB in 1956 he was employed to run the Goleta Boys & Girls Club in 1958. That same year he formed the first day camp for children, ages 5 to 12, and also initiated the first baseball league in Goleta, at then Amvets Field off Hollister Avenue, that hosted up to 500 kids.
“In 1959, we lost our lease on Building 119, which was located on the airport at the time, and George spearheaded a capital campaign and raised $120,000 to build the Goleta Boys & Girls Club at the recent location,” Rodriguez said. “And when George took over as the first executive director of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County in 1975, he recruited a very powerful board and combined all the clubs and administrative offices into a solid and progressive organization. But, most important of all, he saved a lot of kids’ lives. George T. Chelini is truly a godfather of this organization.”
Chelini, 81, who also received a Santa Barbara County Certificate of Recognition from First District county Supervisor Salud Carbajal, shared his thoughts on the successes of the club.
“There are so many things that are going on in kids’ lives these days. They’re under a lot of pressure and stress, and susceptible to negative influences on the streets,” Carbajal said. “I’ve been away from the Boys & Girls Clubs for 20 years now, but I’m impressed with the changes and progressive outreach and educational programs offered to our youth. I think that the organization is doing a fantastic job keeping up with the new trends.”
The evening commenced on a high note when representatives from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians presented a $100,000 check allotted to the Westside Boys & Girls Club that was followed by a fun-filled live auction hosted by the dynamic father and son team of Bill and Bill Hoffer.
Keynote speakers Sheriff Bill Brown and District Attorney Joyce Dudley also paid tribute to club leaders, staff and volunteers for their continued efforts in helping to build a bright future for kids.
Live entertainment from the popular R&B band Area 51 kept the lively crowd dancing into the evening.
The first Boys & Girls Club, in Hartford, Conn., was established in 1860, during the height of the industrial revolution, and since the club’s inception the organization has evolved into the largest network of facility-based youth development institutions in the world with more than 4,000 local clubs serving 4.1 million youths through membership and community outreach nationwide.
The United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County is the parent organization to 10 Boys & Girls Clubs locations, including club houses, school campuses that partner with local school districts, United Way and other key businesses and private foundations within the county, hiring qualified staff teachers and trained employees and acquire educational materials and supplies helping kids reach their full potential.
However, the clubs could not function without community volunteers who visit the clubs on a daily basis to assist kids with homework and tutor them in challenging subjects, equipping them with the knowledge, confidence, courage and discipline required to reach academic success and their dreams.
In addition, the clubs offer core programs that serve an additional 13,000 youth during nontraditional hours, providing kids with adult-guided, youth-oriented activities and community events. Some of the events include Friday Late Nights, which caters to 300 youths per week who watch movies, participate in talent contests, music shows and sport tournaments.
The organization also has four year-round licensed day facilities that offer complimentary transportation from local schools and an after-school drop-in program for youths that runs from 1 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and weekend hours that provides a safe haven and a fun place for kids with working parents.
“Kids who join our clubs thrive in a safe and fun environment, and our staff is so empowered to help them with their achievement gap to excel in mathematics, English, reading and science,” Rattray said.
According to Rattray, the clubs have witnessed10 percent growth in demand in the past year, with 70 percent of the families who are served being at or below the federal poverty income level of $22,350 for a family of four.
“This economy makes it tough for everybody, not only for the nonprofits but for those who are working and for the unemployed,” Rattray said. “So I think our mission serves so well in this community because our doors are open for everybody. We turn nobody away. You can come to us even if you don’t have a buck.”
Click here for more information about the organization or to make an in-kind donation.
The United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County would like to thank the following sponsors for their generosity.
» Platinum sponsors: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Deckers Outdoor Corp. and Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort by Hilton
» Bronze sponsors: Cox Communications, Coast Hills Federal Credit Union, Damitz Brooks Nightingale Turner & Morrisset, HUB International Insurance Services Inc, First American Title, the Mosher Foundation and the Volentine Family Foundation