The Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood is having its 2016 Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, Saturday June 18th, at Ben Kitay Studios in Hollywood. The club is expecting more than 200 guests, including celebrities and professional poker players to help raise funds for the 79 year-old organization, which offers summer and after-school programs for kids to help transform their lives.
“We are celebrating 79 years of service to kids in our community,” said Mel Culpepper, Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood Chief Executive Officer, when she gave the Buzz a tour of the facility in our neighborhood last week. Board member and former tennis professional Anne White, a Hancock Park resident who’s been involved with the club for a number of years, invited us over to learn more about the club. It was my first time inside, after driving by 850 N Cahuenga for years! The 22,000 square feet space was buzzing with kids doing homework, playing basketball and just doing what kids like to do, hang out with their friends.
“Every morning I wake up knowing that my work will impact thousands of children,” said Culpepper, whose enthusiasm for kids is infectious. “It’s an enormous responsibility and an honor to be in the service of children. They are the future leaders of our great nation.”
“Mel’s commitment to the kids is beyond amazing and it is an honor to be on her board,” said White. “It’s all about community and giving kids the opportunity to pursue their dreams!”
Tom Juda, Larchmont Village resident, currently in his second year as board chair, has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood for more than a decade because he loves watching the parents’ reactions when they pick up their kids at the end of the day.
“They come in and they are smiling; they know we are giving their kids a great opportunity,” said Juda. “I see the future leaders of Los Angeles in these kids. It’s amazing and it makes you feel great to be part of it.”
“We operate like a club,” said Juda. “It’s a club that belongs to the kids. We teach them how to interact with each with respect.”
Because it’s a club, kids can choose how to spend their time, explained Culpepper. She proudly noted that 99 % of the kids take advantage of the homework assistance and academic support programs offered by the club. Many are involved in the club’s enrichment programs in music and art. Culpepper has secured grants and donations to help provide programs for the kids. The Los Angeles Lakers funded the technology lab, the Herb Alpert Foundation supports a music program in collaboration with UCLA, and the Goldwin Foundation gives generously to support overall programming including robotics and digital arts.
In addition to serving the kids at the club, the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood also provides after-school programming for kids at Van Ness Elementary School and West Hollywood Elementary School.
Even though the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood are affiliated with the national Boys and Girls clubs, it raises all of its funds locally because each club is independently governed and operated. Funds raised at the poker night will support the organization’s $1.2 million annual budget with 25 staff members; 7 are full time and 18 part-time staff come in to run various programs.
The poker tournament is one of two annual fundraising events, the other is a golf tournament in the fall. For more information visit http://bgchollywood.com/
The Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood was founded in June, 1937 by Mrs. Earl Gilmore, of the Assistance League of Southern California. She organized The Boys Club of Hollywood in two rooms above a garage on DeLongpre Avenue in Hollywood. Originally expected to attract 10 – 15 boys, Mrs. Gilmore was happily surprised with the arrival of 60 boys during the first month. Mrs. Gilmore, the daughter-in-law of A.F. Gilmore who struck oil on his dairy farm, was married to Earl Bell Gilmore, who created a vast oil and gas distribution network. Mrs. Gilmore and other like-minded civic leaders believed boys would benefit from having a place to go where they could learn skills that could help them realize their full potential.
In 1942, thanks to the efforts of local businesses and tradespeople, a new Club facility was constructed on the Assistance League property. In 1957, entertainer Bob Hope spearheaded a fundraising drive to finance the construction of a gymnasium and outdoor swimming pool; and in 1976, to better serve our children, board members purchased a large play field adjacent to the Club facility.
In 1986, the name was officially changed to the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood and girls were welcomed. But in 1994, the Assistance League sold the property, which became Home Depot. The club was relocated to a small space at The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood where it struggled to find its footing in the much smaller space, losing most of the 2,000 kids it had served.
In the spring of 1998, the Club moved into its current location at 850 North Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood, thanks to the generosity of Margie and Bob Petersen, who lost their young sons in a tragic airplane crash. Petersen gave the club a building downtown, which the club sold and purchased 850 North Cahuenga. With 22,000 square feet, the club is able to offer programs including music, art, homework support, and athletics in a place it can call its own. Membership is $30 a year. Summer programs cost parents $30 a week. The club is open 11.5 hours a day during the summer and provides free lunch and free snacks for kids.
In 2004, the Club began planning for $3 million renovation project. Ten years later, the project expanded to $5.9 million. Today the Club serves over 1,400 kids each year.
In 2015, the Club completed the gymnasium, and exterior upgrades including signage and interior renovations throughout the Club facility. Next up on the agenda is the creation of a roof-top playing field and community garden, as funding becomes available.