We (Must) Take Care of Our Own

Driving in to work today, Springsteen was singing “We Take Care of Our Own.” As I have been mired in the angst and deliberation of finalizing next year’s budget, his words gave me an opportunity to pause, smile and reflect on the great impact of our daily commitment to youth. College Bound graduates our seniors (96%) and sends them to college – more than 1,000 during the past four years; our Arts Academy expanded our Monday-Friday arts programming and is now providing advanced instruction and performance opportunities during Saturday mega-sessions; our growing sports leagues provide great competition, but more importantly, an opportunity to have fun and develop an active lifestyle that will hopefully last for decades.

Facilitating the Club’s budget is analyzing and choosing – considering all of the opportunities and then prioritizing and developing a plan that will allocate primarily for the most important and impactful programming while designating lesser amounts or sometimes zero for other options. Nothing different than what you do with your business and/or home budget – we can’t have it all so we try and make the best choices possible to have the greatest positive impact within our limits. And even though our organization’s budget is $5 million – we still have to make choices as we now operate 17 sites and serve over 12,000 youth annually while sadly thousands more must watch from the sidelines.

I am writing on this issue because as a nation we have the same budget limitations with one added twist – besides taking care of our own we have long accepted the responsibility of being the world’s security leader as well as its greatest foreign aid provider. The reality is that all of our domestic needs must compete with budget considerations such as Iraq ($2 trillion over the past 10 years), Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, world hunger, global disasters, drought, terrorist camps and third-world infrastructure needs just to name a few.

As a nation, we are once again subjected to our annual budget debate – a debate that includes a national debt that could strangle our children and grandchildren in the decades to come. Other facts and factors not necessarily a major part of the discussion is that we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty since the Great Depression. Our senior citizens are living longer while we are considering cutting back Social Security and Medicare. The number of Americans living on the streets or in their cars is shameful and debilitating. Public education is reeling from rhetoric rather than having the funding needed to once again include the arts, vocational training and support for our adult immigrants. And violence in this country continues to prematurely end lives while shattering many more. Add the growing need for Americans displaced by hurricanes and tornados, the lack of proper support for our veterans when they return home from foreign wars, a nation whose infrastructure needs FDR and the WPA, and the reality that tens of millions of Americans have little or no medical or dental care – then you have to admit that the needs of our citizens have been taking a back seat to other “priorities.”

Budgeting is not a perfect science but requires tough decisions that must decrease some needs while eliminating others completely. Also, we as a nation cannot be isolationists both on a moral level as well as the necessity to protect our borders from afar. Regardless, budgeting for the 21st century must further prioritize the needs of the children and families of this great nation over everything else. We can’t make The Boss a liar – we must do a better job of taking care of our own. spt

Partners In Smiles, Hope & Opportunity

Last year was a year to celebrate for many reasons.

We served 1,404 members in our College Bound program last year and 96% of our seniors graduated on time with 93% of them going on to college last fall. We saw our Comprehensive Arts Program continue to grow, so we developed our Saturday Arts Academy to take kids off the waiting lists and provide intermediate to advanced learning opportunities in fine arts, music, dance, recording arts and animation. We completed a much needed $1.1 million renovation of our San Pedro Club facility which included building out separate centers for our elementary, middle school and high school members – a strategy that is revolutionary in our movement and allowed us to triple our daily middle school attendance. Last but not least, we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of serving the most at-risk children of our Los Angeles Harbor communities.

Seventy-five years of serving all youth, but especially those who need us most, is something to note, but the real story is this organization’s ability to continue to adapt to meet the growing needs of our children and families.

It started in 1937, with local businessmen establishing the San Pedro Boys Club to keep the community’s boys from terrorizing the customers of local merchants. In the ’50s, the Club was moved to the few remaining facilities from the 1932 earthquake condemned San Pedro High School. In 1965 (I was a member), the brand new and beautiful San Pedro Club was built by Nick Trani and his merry band of board members. In the mid-’80s the Club fell upon hard times and sadly had to lease away the ball field so many of us boys grew up on over the decades – but the doors stayed open.

In 1999, as gangs continued to proliferate in the Harbor Area, we built our first of eventually three Teen Centers, which later was recognized as a National Teen Center of Excellence by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In 2001, we partnered with the Port of Los Angeles to establish the Port Boys & Girls Club to meet the growing needs of the 600 Public Housing units in Rancho San Pedro.

In 2002, we developed and instituted College Bound to address the greater than 50% dropout rate of our members. In 2004, we heard the call for help from our Wilmington neighbors and merged with their organization to become the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor. By 2008, we completed $3.5 million in renovations and expansion at the Wilmington Club site so we could replicate our successful San Pedro program model. By 2012, we had become the largest Boys & Girls Club organization in the entire Los Angeles County area – while serving over 8,000 youth annually. Also in 2012, one of our alumni, Misty Copeland, was inducted into the National Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame for her accomplishments with the American Ballet Theatre. Misty participated in her first ballet lessons here at our San Pedro Club many years earlier.

For 75 years, we have often saved and positively changed tens of thousands of lives because of the generous support of locals: individuals, businesses, service organizations, foundations and even government entities. Words cannot adequately express my sincere thanks for the generosity of each and every one of you – for without you there would be no College Bound, no Arts Academy, no Teen Center of Excellence, no state-of-the-art recording studio, no Wilmington or Port Club, no 8,000 members, no smiles, no hope. Without you, there would be no reason for celebration.

Thanking you in advance for the next 75 years of smiles, hope and changing & saving lives. spt