A New Hang-Out
Kids’ Center Opens After 13 Years of Funding Travails and Setbacks
May 11, 1997|JOHN CANALIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Sally Blotzer, 7, wasn’t even born when volunteers began planning the Boys and Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley’s Kingston Branch at Mile Square Regional Park 13 years ago, but she greeted its grand opening Saturday with a perfect rendition of the national anthem.
Her sweet voice didn’t crack in front of an auditorium of club supporters, business leaders, members of Congress, state legislators and the Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach city councils.
No big deal, really. After singing, Sally quietly joined other children in one of the center’s play rooms while the grown-ups participated in the long-awaited building dedication.
“I like it because it’s just fun,” she said of the center for kindergartners to teens. “There’s lots of kids, and there’s lots to do.”
The new stone-and-glass center–trimmed in the clubs’ trademark blue–features a specially surfaced gymnasium adaptable to roller hockey, basketball, volleyball and soccer. Amenities include a computer center, game rooms, a playground and, of course, Mile Square Regional Park. It’s all to keep youngsters active while their parents are at work.
“Kids who are bored with nothing to do are prime candidates for mischief or finding trouble,” said Fountain Valley Mayor John J. Collins, who serves on a planning committee for the club. “In today’s society, all kids are at risk.”
Collins and others, who set out to build the club in 1984 when the Fountain Valley Boys Club on Brookhurst Street shut down and moved to temporary sites at area schools, had no idea it would take so long. But one thing kept supporters pressing on: demand for youth programs.
“We had kids we couldn’t take care of, even back then,” Collins said.
The $2.2 million it took to build the 18,800-square-foot center was generated by more than a decade of smoky bingo games, corporate and private gifts, government and foundation grants.
In the 1980s, the City Council offered a free 25-year sublease for the Mile Square Regional Park land and donations came in steadily.
Then there were numerous setbacks.
Gifts declined in the early 1990s when the economy soured. Supporters, however, refused to borrow money.
“We could have opened it six or eight years ago–with a mortgage,” said Tanya Grimes, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley. “But [we] were committed to opening it without debt.”