Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 4:04 am | Fair 57º


New Director of Westside Boys & Girls Club Takes Hands-On Approach

Jon Young is focused on making the center a source of community pride that involves parents, neighbors and businesses

Last Friday afternoon, Jon Young was on the phone working to coordinate with administrators at a local elementary school, trying to figure out how many kids he would need to pick up from school that day to bring to the Westside Boys & Girls Club for after-school programs.

Young is the new director of the club, at 602 W. Anapamu St., and began that position about a month ago.

He has realized he'll have to do it all as the leader of the nonprofit neighborhood center, including drive a van to do after-school pick-ups. He's OK with that, however.

"I don't want to be the kind of director who sits behind a desk," he said, while still on hold with the school, as a handful of children played just outside in the club's common area.

Young will be leading two full-time staff members, six part-time staff and a host of volunteers who will help care for the 120 children enrolled for fall programs.

Young, who is fluent in Spanish and lived for two years in Ecuador, previously worked at Westmont College as a residence hall director from 2007 to 2012, and for the past two years worked in sales in a job he said he wasn't passionate about.

Now in this new position, Young sees every day "as a profound opportunity to make a difference."

Young's wife, Megan, is involved with the club as well and has already gotten her hands dirty with the organization's garden club, which has taken the helm of several raised bed gardens lining Anapamu Street with fresh kale, tomatoes and the like.

The couple live on the Mesa and have three children, ages 5, 3 and 1.

It's a busy time at the club as kids come back to programming for the school year while Young is still examining the club's processes, evaluating what works and what doesn't, and learning his way around.

One of his priorities is having the neighborhood take ownership of the club.

"We want this to feel like their club," he said. "I want input on what people want to see here. … I would love to see it as a resource for the neighborhood."

A prime example Young brought up was his asking the kids whose club it was. Hearing them respond that it was Young's club gave him pause.

"If they don't say it's their club, then we still have a ways to go," he said.

Focus groups have been done, some in concert with the Westside Church Collaborative, which found that one of the most important needs in the neighborhood were resources for youth and teens.

Young said he'd like to see neighborhood teens feel like the center is a place where they can hang out and find a second home.

There are still basic rules for conduct — the club's mantra is an all encompassing "Respect yourself, respect others, respect the club" — but Young is open to ideas.

Unlike the Eastside, the Westside has a dearth of community center space for which to hold events such as quinceañeras, exercise classes and other gatherings, Young said. The club's classroom and gym spaces could be used in the evenings when the children are gone to host adult education or ESL classes.

They're already doing a bit of that with the Family Day and Health Fair, which will be held at the club and at adjacent Bohnett Park on Saturday and will host free medical health screenings for children and adults, free lunch, a bike clinic and other activities.

While financial donations are always welcome, one of Young's goals is to begin to tap into other resources, such as parents or neighbors able to help with service projects that will benefit the club.

"Everyone has something they could do," he said.

People wanting to help maintain the grounds, do repairs on the building, or help do an oil change or other maintenance on the club's vans used to transport children are all welcome. Perhaps local bakeries that have items they need to get rid of by the end of the day could be donated to the club, Young mused.

"The sky's the limit," he said.

To speak with Young about partnership or volunteer opportunities, he can be reached at [email protected].

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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