The new VBGC gym./ Photo Robie Aguila
By Mayra AzanzaThe Variety Boys and Girls Club (VBGC) of Boyle Heights reopened today after an 11-month remodeling project.
The club’s 85-year-old building was revamped with a $10 million fund, raised from corporate and foundation gifts as well as private donations, according to club director Jorge Medina. The VBGC is now poised to offer its services to up to 300 children between the ages of 6 and 17.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony was held earlier this month, attended by such officials as mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, councilman José Huizar and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) president Mónica García.
“I’ve seen many children and youth go through this club,” said Medina, who belonged to the VBGC as a child. “Many of them were very close to falling to gangs and drugs, and I’ve seen them achieve Masters degrees at prestigious universities.”
Besides expanding the club’s floor space to 28,000 square feet, the reconstruction will allow for the creation of new teen programs, even as public schools cut back on programs geared at helping them get to college. “With these improvements, we can now offer those services,” Medina said.
The building now houses a cafeteria, library, game room and gym, and a new pool is in the plans. Before the remodeling, the club was able to provide services to up to 150 children; now it can assist up to 300. Members have access to all the facilities and to programs geared at helping them interact socially, learn to work in teams and identify with their community, while at the same time staying away from gangs and other vices.
Fifty percent of children between the ages of five and 17 in Boyle Heights fall under the federal definition of poverty, according to the organization. LAUSD’s Mónica García says that beyond the opening of a new building, VBGC celebrates the humanity and hope for the children and youth of Boyle Heights.
Initially the club will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, but will extend its hours in the summer.
This article is published with permission from La Opinion.