The Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove have been providing positive places for children to go during non-school hours, particularly when there is no adult at home, since 1956 - long before the word "latchkey" became a part of our vocabulary!
Garden Grove is a very unique community in which its citizens have always supported the needs of their children. Although the city was incorporated in 1956, plans for a Boys Club began the year before. Funding was available through a bequest in a will from Emlen W. Hoag.
Emlen W. Hoag (no relation to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach) wanted to establish a school for the boys of Garden Grove, thus bequeathing acreage and a part of his estate. A number of local community leaders oversee the committee and determined that a Boys Club would be a benefit to the community. A Boys Club at that time was a new and emerging idea, especially on the west coast of the United States. The Boys Club was a place where kids could go primarily after school and was a way to keep the kids off the street.
Since the bequest was originally intended to start a school for boys, a committee formed primarily of attorneys, civic leaders, and school board members needed to research, evaluate, and secure the bequest to be used as a club for boys rather than a school.
Some protest from the Hoag family ensued over the allocations of the bequest. Mr. Hoag's children voiced that the funds should be used exactly how their father deemed or not at all. The committee successfully argued in court and the Garden Grove community was granted the rights to use the bequest to build a Boys Club. The bequest included a substantial amount of money as well as fourteen acres of land.
The committee worked closely with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, then only Boys Clubs of America, and even used standard floor plans (Plan B). The plan for the Club was about for a building about 19,000 square feet.
Many of the committee members were instrumental in the development of the Club and took part in the Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony on December 27, 1956. At that time, the community population was around 20,000 to 30,000 people. The Club was the center of the community. Most of the original homes and the main shopping area were built near the Club and boys would walk or ride their bike to the Club after school. The Club had a gym, locker rooms, and showers, which was a rare magnificence in those times. The Boys Club was an asset in the community and a really great place for boys to go.
Women leaders in our community, most notably Marilyn Baker, Jan Dunn, and Gwen Wisner envisioned a place where girls could have the same opportunities as the boys in the Garden Grove community. Therefore, they forged a relationship with Girls Clubs of America. Without the good fortune of a bequest, the women started plan and assemble a place for the Club.
The first Girls Club in Garden Grove found its home in the civic center area and was previously used a small warehouse to store old textbooks. They were able to convert the building (undetermined if the building was leased or borrowed from the school district) to a club for girls. Interestingly enough, the programming was not focused on keeping girls off the street, but grooming to be future homemakers of America. Primarily women ran the facility, but notably George Hanled and Walt Donovan were men brought in to help generate funds and run the facility and maintenance.
Around 1968 or 1969, it was determined that the Girls Club needed to have a headquarters as well as more space. A house built in 1931 and 3500 square feet on Garden Grove Boulevard and 8th Street seemed the perfect fit. A prominent landmark in Garden Grove, the house had the first private pool in the city, spacious rooms, and even a back building used for ceramics. The Girls Club gathered donations to raise the unheard of amount of $35,000 to buy the home and renovate it into a Club. The new Club was opened in early 1970 where successful programs for girls were run for many years.
Both the Boys Club and the Girls Club were raising private funds to operate their Club. Neither were funded publicly and relied on the community to ensure the children in the community had a safe place to go.
In early 1970, the Boys Club established the Westside Boys Club to extend their services on the west side of Garden Grove. Many families needed the Club because it was geographically impossible for the children to get across from west Garden Grove to the central location of the Boys Club. The Westside Boys Club ran successfully for many years, until 1978 when they were going to close their doors due to financial struggles. Since there was a need for after school programming on that side of town, they offered the site to the Girls Club to operate. In result, Girls Clubs took ownership and offered programs for both boys and girls naming the new site Kids Club.
The program was extremely successful and that was first foray into Garden Grove that showed that boys and girls could coexist peacefully in after school programs. The program would be to the benefit of both boys & girls and was very progressive. In fact, during this time, Boys Clubs of America was starting to consider entering girls into their programs as well.
It was a struggle during the 1980's among the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs throughout the nation. The debate over allowing girls to enter Boys Club was often discussed and considered, especially in Garden Grove. The debate was not solely philosophical, but if the Boys Club had facilities and programs that would serve girls fairly and equitably. Boys Clubs of America knew if they were to serve girls, they needed to make changes. In 1987, Boys Clubs of America passed their national charter to include girls in their organizational title and into their programs.
For more than 5 years after Boys & Girls Clubs of America passed their new charter to include girls in the programs, the Boys Club of Garden Grove was one of the few Clubs that remained a club only for boys. At the time, Garden Grove was a fairly conservative and careful community and the leadership at the Boys Club was rather reluctant to serve girls.
The Boys Club facility itself was never designed for girls. There was only one restroom and it was a men's room. There was no women's room and the Club was not prepared to serve girls to staff members with women now instead of primarily young men working. The renovation would have been a great undertaking and left the Boys Club of Garden Grove one of the last clubs in America to start serving girls in 1992.
Also in 1992, two unique opportunities came to Girls Club for new Club sites. The California Department of Education extended a grant to the Girls Club to open a licensed child care facility. The facility coincided well with the current programs offered because it gave parents a choice whether or not they wanted to send their child to a licensed child care facility or a non-licensed traditional Club facility. It was open to both boys and girls. Currently Stanford Kids Club remains the only fully licensed child care facility for school age children at the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The second opportunity was made available through the California Youth Authority funding to build youth centers. The Youth Center and Youth Shelter Bond Act program granted $300,000 to the Girls Club to build a youth center. The need in east Garden Grove for a safe place for children to go desperately existed that families approached us for help. The Buena Clinton neighborhood in east Garden Grove, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s, was unfortunately the best known barrio in Orange County. A small space of 800 square feet was donated by a local company for programming. The space seemed a bit small, but enough to start the program by using outdoor areas in combination with the four small rooms. The Club was named Clinton Kids Club Branch.
Rain is rare in southern California, but as luck had it, it poured the first day of registration. Over 125 parents stood in the rain to sign up for the new after school program bursting the space capacity. To limit enrollment, the Club required the members to bring homework or a book to read to help filter out children who were there only for social reasons. The next day 150 members arrived to spend their time after school in a safe and positive place. Numbers kept growing and it was immediately evident that more space was needed.
The school district was approached and programs were run out of the multipurpose room while funds from the Youth Center and Youth Shelter Bond Act allowed the Club to build a new building in the Buena Clinton neighborhood. The school district helped keep cost low by leasing the land to the Club for a dollar a year as long as after school programs were run on the site. The Club was open to both boys and girls. Fifteen years later, we still lease the land for a dollar a year.
Patton Kids Club (now known as Patton Branch) became part of the Girls Club very similar to Kids Club. It originally was operated by the YMCA and was turned over to the Girls Club in 1993. The Club was also on the west side of Garden Grove and was highly successful since the day the doors were open the community serving both boys and girls.
Once the Boys Club started serving girls and the Girls Club started serving boys, both Clubs ended up being almost competition within the community. Since the two Clubs had almost identical names, "Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove" and "Girls & Boys Clubs of Garden Grove," operating in the same community, it developed confusion. Fundraising became increasingly difficult. Families had a difficult time selecting which Club worked the best for them and comprehending the differences between the two Clubs. At times, bills and checks even went to the wrong sites.
In 1993 or 1994 Bob Garret, the president of Boys Club of Garden Grove finally decided that it was time to talk to the Girls Club about a merger. Merging the two groups would build on the strengths and keep both groups moving forward to better serve the families in the community. Surprising to top management in both Clubs, the idea of a merger was not well received. But ultimately, without a merger, each group would struggle and incur financial difficulties.
The merger process lasted for approximately two years and was approached very carefully. At the start, it seemed it would be a simple progression but became increasingly difficult to merge board of directors, staff teams, and even at times different philosophies on how to approach afterschool programming for kids.
Some arguments and disagreements were not just confined to the board room during the merger. A small group of Boys Club parents and Boys Club members strongly opposed the merger and literally marched with picket signs on the Club. Fear, misconceptions, and rumors flooded the newspapers, but the supporters of the merger took a lot consideration throughout the merger for the concerns of those against it. The merger was ultimately perhaps one of the best mergers that took place in the country from the standpoint of the eventual success of both groups getting together and laying a solid foundation. The fear, misconceptions, and rumors were addressed and the merger completed in 1996.
The late 1990's focused on building programming at the Clubs. Our partnership with the Garden Grove Unified School District strengthened and the community began to truly understand and support the need for quality after school programming. Our work did not end at the community level. The Club became highly involved with national programs and began attending national trainings and workshops which in result fortified our programs. Our team of staff members grew and became motivated youth development professionals.
Growth of opening other Club site buildings was put on hold because the Club could see on the horizon funding for school based programs.