With the cut of a ribbon, Santa Barbara's Westside Boys & Girls Club reopened Wednesday to reveal a newly refurbished multipurpose gym to the excitement of local children and their parents in attendance.
After a year of planning and raising $200,000, mostly from local donors, the Westside Boys & Girls Club showed off its repainted interior, a brick patio area and an education center in addition to the gym.
James Crook, vice president of the board of the United Boys & Girls Clubs, said he was happy the 47-year-old facility would finally be fully reopened to the children it serves, an average of 200 daily.
“The only way we're going to change the world is through education,” he said. “It's hard to change the minds of adults. Our job is to reach out to people when they're young and help their education and help them become productive members of society.”
The Westside club has been renovated only one other time since it was built in 1967.
Sal Rodriguez, former executive director for the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, raised $1.2 million in 2002 — the last time it was renovated.
Rodriguez, who has worked with the organization for more than 30 years, said he was proud to see the club able to better serve the underprivileged children of the Westside neighborhood.
“When you look at the demographics of this area, you begin to see how valuable an organization like this can be to an area like this,” he said. “We believe the kids that go through our program become good citizens because they don't forget the good times they had here. That's our goal.”
One of those kids is Matthew Alexander Marquis.
Marquis, 15, who was an honored guest at the ribbon cutting, said he heard the club needed help gathering supplies and offered to help, in an effort to earn his way into the Eagle Scouts. He sent out an email flier and canvassed the community, including members of his church and the families of fellow Boy Scouts.
Thanks to his efforts, the community donated games, two flat-screen televisions, furniture and an LCD projector, among other items.
“I'm very happy,” he said. “I heard that this is a very disadvantaged community, and I wanted to give back to the kids here in any way I could.”
Lynda Bohnett said her family has made it a project to help the club, adding that they planned to remodel the kitchen, which she hopes will be done by the first of the year.