They say that history repeats itself. For the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura (BGCGV), that phrase ringing true means a big boost for tens of thousands of Ventura County youth for years to come.
The LA84 Foundation’s most recent grant cycle, in June of 2016, allocated nearly $20,000 to BGCGV to refurbish the gym floors at both of the club’s sites. Three months later, the grand opening of the floor at the Club’s Bill LeFevre Center saw over 100 local youth club members celebrate their seemingly brand-new court. Replete with an LA84 logo at center court and polished hardwood floors, the court will shine, both literally and figuratively, as a beacon for Ventura County youth far and wide.
The court itself was built in 1991, when LA84 (then the Amateur Athletic Foundation) installed a wood floor in the brand-new club. In an area with few indoor courts available, LA84’s assist soon turned into a slam dunk. The gym became a hotspot throughout the Ventura community, with over 10,000 elementary-schoolers treading its surface over the years.
“The gym is the only place sometimes where we can pay normal sports, like soccer and basketball,” said six-year-old club member Michael, beaming in his orange Pop Warner jersey.
Patti Birmingham, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Ventura, was at the club 25 years ago when the original court went in. For her, Tuesday was a reflection on a career come full circle. “When we first opened the court, it became an immediate hotspot,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve seen kids go from this court into society, and they’re succeeding. They’re raising their families, and many of them have brought their families back to the Club and the court. This court is in its second generation.”
Ventura’s first Boys & Girls Club opened in 1968, while the Bill LeFevre Center opened its doors with the new court in 1991. A third location opened in 1996, while a fourth center came to fruition in 2007. The clubs today serve over 500 children on a daily basis, providing a safe after-school spot for youth who haven’t always had the easiest path.
Beside the sadness the kids noticeably showed during the two weeks the gym was closed for renovations, the four clubs and gym especially rise above in generally tougher areas of Ventura. “This court is a self-esteem builder,” Birmingham said. 85 percent of the club’s members quality for free or reduced-price school lunch, while 36 percent live in single-parent households, per BGCGV. “Many of these kids are coming from low-income circumstances and the chance of them having something this great in their life is really small,” she added. “Having something you’re prideful about and that you feel belongs to you and that you get to use every day is huge for these kids.”