GAME ON: A pair of kids play foosball during the opening in December of a Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica branch in a Community Corp. of Santa Monica building on Broadway. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)
GAME ON: A pair of kids play foosball during the opening in December of a Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica branch in a Community Corp. of Santa Monica building on Broadway. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CITYWIDE — Slowly but surely, a new low-income apartment complex is taking shape on Pico Boulevard right across from Santa Monica High School, but this one is special.

When completed, it will be one of five Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) buildings with a Boys & Girls Club built into the community room included in the complex.

The partnership provides the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica deeper saturation into the community than its main office on Lincoln Boulevard can offer while residents of the building get free membership to the club and after-school care for kids.

It’s a win for all involved, said Sarah Letts, executive director of CCSM.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet the needs of families right where they live, and a good opportunity for the Boys & Girls Club to get their programs out to the neighbors,” Letts said.

The relationship between the Boys & Girls Club and CCSM began five years ago and has produced three branches at buildings on Main Street, Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway.

Two more will come online this year in buildings being built on Pico Boulevard, said Christina Coles, the marketing and communications manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.

Those are expected to open in May or June of 2014 after the buildings have been leased.

Each club can take on 50 to 65 members, and each of the sites provides access to a college preparation program called Collegebound, the teen center and leadership and confidence-building clubs and programs.

“All of these sites will strive to make a direct impact in communities that really need it, which is our main goal in implementing them there,” Coles said.

It costs $80,000 to open and maintain a new site, Coles said, and key donations from companies like Microsoft and organizations like the Verizon Foundation and Pacific Youth Foundation mean that many of the sites have top-of-the-line technology so that club members can become computer savvy and acquire the skills they need to be competitive in school and their future careers.

Activities take place in the community rooms which are equipped with locking cabinets specifically for the Boys & Girls Club so that the room can be used by others on weekends.

Although the classes and homework support help the students, one of the main benefits that the Boys & Girls clubs provide actually accrues to the parents who know that their children can come home after school and get quality care.

Letts remembers trying to negotiate after-school care for her children when she was a working mom, so the idea that a school-age child can access that not far from where they live holds a special attraction for her.

“I look back and I knocked myself out to find quality care, schlep the kids over and pick them up on time,” Letts said. “You incur the expense, deal with the logistics to get to and from after-school care. In this situation, you literally take the bus home from school and go to an awesome program run by the Boys & Girls Club at their property.”

It made a big difference for David Ramirez, the Boys & Girls Club 2012 Youth of the Year who attended the Pacific Branch located in his CCSM building.

“I’ve been a Boys & Girls Club member since the third grade, and I’ve never gone to the main branch,” Ramirez said.

He wasn’t able to go because his parents didn’t have a car, so he attended the club at his elementary school and later at the Pacific Branch.

Ramirez had just gotten out of one of the first classes of his second semester at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He’s the first in his family to go to college, and he credits the club, which helped him with his English homework and taught him how to get scholarships.

Club staff even helped drive Ramirez to college when he first moved in.

Having the club on-site is a huge boon for the children in the building, Ramirez said.

“They may not realize it right now, but later on, it will make a huge difference in their lives,” Ramirez said.

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