VACAVILLE — For Vacaville Boys and Girls Club interim director Anna Eaton, the club’s 10th anniversary is a year of rebirth.
“We have a healthier club with a strong board and we are continuing to build goodwill in the community,” Eaton said. “We are looking to grow and touch as many lives as possible.”
Despite a tough economy that tightened financial contributions and forced the closure of one of the club’s two sites in Vacaville, Eaton and the club’s board members said they are looking forward to what Eaton said are “a series of small goals and some loftier goals.”
Those small goals include increasing support, getting more volunteers and continuing to improve the Trower Center site, while the loftier ones include someday finding a facility for a teen center to better serve the club’s growing number of teens.
Eaton said the club’s first 10 years have not been easy, “but we have done it with the help of all our parents and volunteers and we look forward to the next 10 years and beyond, so that the children of these children can benefit from this.”
“There was a need for getting kids off the street,” said Phil Velez, one of the club’s supporters. “I am glad to see that things have gone well. It is needed here. I would like to meet some of the kids who have benefitted here and see what they are doing today.”
Board member and parent Esther Blanco said the club has created a place “where the kids can feel safe and has created a community for the kids.”
Glenn Holbert, a board member on the Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club, has a daughter who is one of the volunteers at the Vacaville club.
“It is a safe place for the kids,” Holbert said. He said it is a good example of the saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.”
“The volunteers here help tutor and mentor these kids so that they can become leaders themselves,” Holbert said.
The Vacaville Boys and Girls Club home, the Trower Center on Holly Lane, offers a host of activities and programs for children from 6 to 18, ranging from homework help and career exploration to field trips to area colleges and businesses. It has about 250 youths who can be found at the center throughout the week.
It has been 10 years since the club’s founder, Montoya Graham – who grew up in Vallejo and was a part of the Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club – approached the Vacaville City Council with the request to turn a neighborhood center on Alamo Drive across from Mariposa Drive into the Vacaville Boys and Girls Club.
“We were all happy to support him,” said Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy, who was involved with the early club when he served as a city councilman. “He started out like a house on fire. He was truly terrific.”
Graham became the center’s first executive director and expanded the club to its second site, a former convenience store on Holly Drive that the city turned into a neighborhood center.
Eaton worked for the city of Fairfield for 10 years, running its youth theater program before joining the Boys and Girls Club in November 2011 as its director of operations. Eaton was a parent when the club opened in 2003. She remembered “it was really a godsend and it was a great place for the kids to go where they could have a great time and take field trips.”
“It was a positive influence on their lives,” Eaton said.
In March 2012, she stepped up to become the club’s interim executive director when Graham left for personal reasons.
Around the same time, the ongoing downturn in the economy forced the club to close its second location, the Mariposa Center on Alamo Drive, affecting dozens of youths. Earlier this year, The Father’s House stepped in and reopened the center.
“It impacted the number of dollars that could be given to the club,” Holbert said. “That shutdown was a direct reflection of the economy.”
It allowed Eaton and her volunteers to pour all of their efforts into the club facility on Holly Lane, which is surrounded by apartments and a much larger number of neighborhood youths than used the Mariposa facility.
Eaton said she and the board are very proud of what has been accomplished during the first 10 years.
“We plan to continue to serve the youth who will help make Vacaville a better place in the future,” Eaton said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.