Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County is close to lining up an East Salinas facility to provide after-school activities and meals for the neighborhood’s burgeoning youth population. A city committee has recommended that the Boys and Girls Club take over a former church at 331 North Sanborn Rd. “We are very excited about possibly serving the children of Alisal, and providing a safe, fun place for them to be,” says Donna Ferraro, president and CEO of the organization.
But Monterey County also wants to move the Silver Star Resource Center, a multi-agency, gang prevention and intervention program, into the church property. The Salinas City Council is expected to take up the issue July 29.
The Salinas Redevelopment Agency is in the process of buying the Salinas New Life Church of the Nazarene for $2.6 million. The building has a small gymnasium, classrooms, kitchen and a sanctuary that can hold 350 people, according to Redevelopment Director Alan Stumpf. The city wants an organization to renovate the building and coordinate programs that support families and youth. Both proposals would do just that.
Boys and Girls Clubs would offer centers for the arts, science, technology, teens and a gym, focusing on academic success, wellness and civic engagement, Ferraro says. “The payback to the community is that we will have kids graduate from high school,” she says.
The organization’s club in north Salinas is at capacity, Ferraro says. A feasibility study showed that east Salinas has the greatest need for a new club. There are 18,515 residents between the ages of 5 and 19 in the 93905 ZIP code where the church is located, according to the 2000 Census.
Councilman Tony Barrera has long advocated for a Boys and Girls Club in the Alisal neighborhood. “One of the things we are all after is effective after-school programs,” Barrera says. [Boys and Girls Club] brings the families together. It’s not a drop-in center.”
On the other hand, Monterey County’s collaborative proposal would house probation officers, mental health and substance abuse counselors along with agencies such as Partners for Peace and Salinas Police Activities League. The resource center is now located at the old Natividad hospital. “[The church] would be a far better fit,” Probation Chief Manuel Real says. “We have a limited capacity at the old hospital. This would allow us to expand and enhance what we are doing.”
Wayne Clark, director of behavior health, says the county could receive funding under the Mental Health Services Act to improve the church. But Clark says he respects the committee’s recommendation to go with the kids. “We’re not going to try to get into a big brawl about this with the Boys and Girls Club,” he says.
Councilwoman Jyl Lutes, who sits on city committee, cast the lone vote supporting the county proposal. “I see too many kids that are on the brink,” Lutes says. “I think we can make a big difference if we have one location with all kinds of programs. Boys and Girls Club is wonderful, but in my mind it doesn’t reach enough people.”
But Lutes will likely be in the minority. With councilmembers Barrera, Sergio Sanchez and Gloria De La Rosa supporting Boys and Girls Clubs, they will just need one more vote to approve it.
If Boys and Girls Clubs wins the lease, Ferraro says, the organization would have to raise the $1.5 million needed to remodel the church. She says it would then be about 18 months before the club opens.
The Salinas City Council meets at 4 p.m. July 29 at the City Hall Rotunda, 200 Lincoln Ave., Salinas.