Boys & Girls Club turns 50
(Note: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley has set Saturday, June 16, as the date for celebrating its 50th anniversary in the community. During those 50 years, the local club has grown, prospered and become a vital part of the community, serving as not only an important resource for youth services and support for local education programs, but also as the virtual community youth recreation program, especially during the summer and holidays. In support of the club and its anniversary celebration, the Index-Tribune is presenting a five-part series on its history.)
Part I – The idea of a Sonoma Boys Club is born
The roots of Sonoma Valley’s Boys & Girls Club were planted 50 years ago in the early spring of 1962 at the Sonoma Community Center. There, a group of prominent local citizens led by Dr. C. B. Andrews, Jerry Casson, Henri Maysonnave, George Marlowe, Helen Fernandez, and Judge A.R. Grinstead, along with more than a dozen other local residents, agreed to form a board of directors for what was to be called the “Valley of the Moon Boys Club.”
The stated purpose was to “… provide activities for youths who might otherwise put energies to the wrong use.”
In June, shortly after those early spring meetings, the club received its official charter from Boys Clubs of America, making June 1962 the birthday of the local club.
If some of the club founders’ names sound familiar today, it is because Andrews Hall is named in honor of Andrews, the founder and primary benefactor of the Sonoma Community Center (and of the Boys Club). Casson, who was at the time involved in numerous community projects, is probably known best for her leadership on behalf of senior citizens and as one of the prime movers in building Vintage House, The Jerry Casson Multi Purpose Senior Center.
Maysonnave, also a prominent community leader in a multitude of projects, gave his family home to the community. The Maysonnave House is now the headquarters of the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation.
Grinstead was a prominent local attorney and judge for whom the Grinstead Amphitheatre in the Sonoma Plaza is named.
Fernandez, former executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, and still a club volunteer today, is by far the longest-serving of the club’s founders, and the only one still around to celebrate its 50 years here. She has served the club in many capacities, including as member of the board, and head of its fund-raising events.
Andrews was elected president of the Boys Club’s first board of directors.
That founding group solicited help from the Santa Rosa Boys Club, which was already in operation.
The founders’ first major task was raising $6,000 to match a $6,000 grant available to it from national Boys Clubs of America.
For the rest of 1962 and virtually all of 1963, the directors and their supporters worked on fundraising and the outline of a plan for the club, including a proposed renovation of the “basement” of the Sonoma Community Center, as its first actual facility.
In November 1963, A. H. Fahringer, executive director of Boys Clubs of America, came to Sonoma Valley and presented Andrews with a $6,000 check, matching the funds raised locally. Archie Avedisian, the Boys Club’s first executive director, declared the successful completion of “Phase One,” and the beginning of “Phase Two.” the renovation of the community center rooms.
Next week: Part II – Sonoma Club opens in the Community Center.