Sunday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official reopening of Santa Barbara’s downtown Boys & Girls Club on East Canon Perdido Street. | Credit: Alejandro Navarro

Santa Barbara’s Eastside community was buzzing with excitement on Sunday, as the ceremonial ribbon was snipped for the neighborhood’s revitalized downtown Boys & Girls Club on East Canon Perdido Street. 

“This club has been the heart of this town for decades,” said club boardmember David Bolton, acknowledging the facility’s 84 years of serving local youth since first opening its doors in 1938.

Around 100 attendees — some residents of the Eastside, some club alumni, some both — filled the air with casual camaraderie. A feel-good scene unfolded in between the tri-tip sandwiches, kids playing shuffleboard with their parents, and Santa Barbara officials giving sappy speeches. 

“We’re all here for our kids; when we put our kids first, we do right by everyone,” said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps. “This is a place of heart, a place of magic, a place of care and compassion. The Club is giving these kids the chance they deserve.”

City councilmembers — including Eastside representative Alejandra Gutierrez — and Santa Barbara Unified School District boardmembers emphasized the club’s role in helping take care of the community’s kids.

Attendees on Sunday included club alumni, city councilmembers, county supervisors, school district officials, and Congressmember Salud Carbajal. | Credit: Alejandro Navarro

“How much opportunity and variety of opportunity we have here,” said school board Vice Chair Gabe Escobedo. When Escobedo attended the club some years ago, he said, “These adults told me I had something to contribute. Other kids will get that because of Mark.”

Escobedo was referencing newly appointed executive director Mark Alvarado, who closed out the afternoon with a story from his junior high days. He was picked on by other kids, and was advised by his friends, “You gotta go to the club, or you’re not gonna make it.” 

Alvarado, who didn’t have a club card or the money for one at the time, was given an empty painter’s bucket and told to go pick up trash for his club card.

“I want this to be a hub for the cultural arts that kids don’t have right now,” Alvarado shared. “I can’t do it alone. I’ll need all of you to be strong advocates too…. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.”

The downtown club is now officially reopened, following their separation from the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County last month. Programming will begin in July.

Margaux Lovely contributed reporting to this story.

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