The History of Boys & Girls Clubs in Tulare County

CU Snacks OLPlanning for the first Boys & Girls Club in Tulare County began in 1991 when a group of Exeter community leaders met to discuss the recent and  dramatic increase in graffiti. They soon concluded that young people in their community needed a positive place to spend free time after school. The group, which included Police Chief John Kunkel, District Superintendent of Schools Mike McLaughlin, Exeter Sun Editor Jerry Newton, business owner Vicki Howes, and  Insurance owner Charlene Brooks Nielsen were appointed by the Chamber of Commerce. They soon formed a dynamic partnership resulting in the birth of the Exeter Community Center concept.

By October of 1991 the ‘gang of five’ had filed articles of incorporation, and began looking for a permanent building. The City of Exeter pledged $20,000 to help develop the Community Center project and an additional $30,000 to the Center for program support. Later that year the City of Exeter provided a run-down former grocery store as the fledgling Club’s first permanent building.

In early 1992 a countywide open house was held to show the new downtown 12,000 square foot Community Center site. Exeter Public Schools and several contractors began contributing in-kind support resulting in over $100,000 in building renovation. The Exeter Community Center was soon incorporated afterwards as a non-profit organization with an affiliation with the United States Boxing Association.

By April 1993 the Center began a new affiliation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Tulare County had its first Boys & Girls Club. Over the next 10 years the organization focused on improving the club facility, adding a computer lab, art room and a City-funded skate park.

In 1996 work was underway in Visalia to start a second Boys & Girls Club organization. Annie Silva and Frank Gindick, motivated by separate experiences, came together to launch a Boys & Girls Club in Visalia.

Annie Silva, an instructor at COS, had visited her hometown and had seen a recently built Boys & Girls Club there. She knew the youth of Visalia needed a quality place to go after school, and determined that if a town of 30,000 could build a club, then so could Visalia. Annie worked with Basil Perch to involve the police chief, Bruce McDermott and Mayor Mary Louise Vivier, to begin planning for a Club. Ruby Duarte, Mary T. Hill and Ed Vollmer joined the cause. During a visit to the Boys & Girls Club in Monterey, Annie learned that another Visalian, Frank Gindick, CEO of the Nash DeCamp company, supported the Monterey B&GC and was also planning to establish a Club in Visalia. Annie and Frank came together to provide leadership to this newly developing organization. Sherriff Bill Wittman insisted that the entire county was in need of the services of Boys & Girls Clubs and the decision was made to name the organization, Boys & Girls Club of Tulare County, which was incorporated on September 12, 1997.

In March, 1999 a partnership with the Kaweah Delta Health Care District purchased the family fitness portion of the Visalia YMCA building. About the same time, 1999 Galen Quenzer, Assistant Executive Director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County for 10 years, was hired as Executive Director. In September of that year, a Boys & Girls Club was started at Washington Elementary School. During this time, renovations and remodeling were being done at the YMCA site. In February, 2000, the new 21,000 square foot Clubhouse opened to the community, featuring a gymnasium, exercise/fitness room, teen center, game room, art room, library, computer learning center, and multi-purpose room.

By 2005 boith Organizations were well established and serving the youth of Exeter and Visalia. Under Executive Director Joe Engelbrecht, the Exeter Club was entereing a period of rapid growth, first into neighboring Farmersville and soon after opening Clubs in Porterville. The Exeter organization soon adopted the name Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias.

In 2008 the two organizations began meeting to discuss the possibility of unifying the two Clubs.  By the end of 2010 the two organization were serving 1,200 youth a day in 16 sites in the communities of Exeter, Farmersville and Porterville, Visalia, Tulare and Ivanhoe.

On May 1st, 2011 the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tulare County and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias officially unified into one organization. The new Club kept the name Boys and Girls Club of the Sequoias.

Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias is focused on helping all young people, especially those who need us the most, to become responsible, caring and productive members of society.

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