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Luck, Ambition Clear Way for New 'Home Away From Home' : Boys Club to Fall for $3.2-Million Replacement

May 16, 1985|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — Robert Monk was poking through the rubble, looking for salvageable items before the bulldozer comes next month and flattens the Boys Club branch in northwest Pasadena.

"A lot of kids have come through here," said Monk, the executive director of the Boys Clubs of Pasadena, looking around the darkened basement as if he could see the neighborhood children who once played there.

Inside what used to be a Safeway grocery store, the Mackenzie-Scott Boys Club branch has operated for 21 years, providing a home away from home for children in this city's northwest section, where crime and unemployment rates run higher than anywhere else in Pasadena, according to city officials.

For the last two weeks, however, the branch has been closed and its interior looks like a demolition zone. Insulation hangs in pieces from the ceiling, plaster litters the floor, and everything that isn't nailed down is being stripped from the building.

The structure will be bulldozed next month, but its purpose will remain. In its stead, a $3.2-million facility will be built, which is being touted as one of the finest Boys Clubs ever planned.

The new club will have an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, a weight room, a library and a music room, and it will be able to accommodate twice as many youngsters as the old Safeway store, which has seen 2,000 children a year use its services.

It was a stroke of unexpected luck and an ambitious fund-raising campaign that have enabled the Boys Club to rebuild its branch in northwest Pasadena, which was rapidly deteriorating and amassing fire and building code violations.

Monk and other Boys Club officials had been struggling with how to finance repairs at the club to bring it up to code when word came in November, 1983, that a longtime benefactor of local charities was leaving a large chunk of money to the Boys Club in her will.

Margaret Bundy Scott, the 87-year-old daughter of the man who manufactured the first time clocks for employers, died a few months later. She bequeathed a multimillion-dollar trust to nine local charities, including the Boys Club.

For Monk, who had been "panicked" about unsafe conditions at the Mackenzie-Scott branch and had closed part of the building because of them, the trust was an answer to his prayers.

"When we were told by the Fire Department of the extent of the code violations, we panicked," Monk said. "We closed the basement for a whole summer and had our arts and crafts program under a tent outside. We were on file as having code violations and if something had happened, God knows what the liability would have been.

Gave People Hope

"We wouldn't even have attempted to start (rebuilding) without the trust," Monk said. "I think we probably would have chickened out. This trust has given a lot of people hope."

And Monk and the 23-member board of directors of the Boys Club took the money and ran.

Trustees of Scott's bequest agreed to grant $2 million to the Boys Club for the new building. The Boys Club was to come up with the rest of the $3.2-million cost.

Monk and other Boys Club officials developed an ambitious plan to raise the money. They put together a fund-raising campaign divided into eight divisions which, in seven months, has raised $436,991.48 and has $763,008.52 to go.

"The success of fund-raising campaigns is due to the caliber of people associated with it," Monk said. And the Boys Club went after, and got, some of the most visible and successful business community leaders in Pasadena.

Fund-Raising Chairman

William E. Leonhard, chairman of the board of the Ralph M. Parsons Co., one of the largest employers in Pasadena, is the general chairman of the fund-raising campaign.

"Because of him," Monk said, "we generated a lot more interest than we probably could have."

The fund-raising campaign targeted eight sources of donations, including corporations, local businesses, foundations and service clubs, and placed a well known local personality in charge of each.

But the most surprising donation, at least to Monk, came from the Boys Club's 23 directors, who gave a total of $188,531 out of their own pockets.

"No way could I have ever believed that our board could donate that much money," Monk said. It's amazing, and it tells you how important this is to us."

To Open in May, 1986

If all goes according to plan, the new club should be opened in May of 1986. Meanwhile, however, the 2,000 youngsters who pass through the Mackenzie-Scott branch each year are left with no local facility.

"It does leave a gap," Monk said. "I'm a little frightened about it. We're trying to do what we can to get these kids off the street."

The Boys Club operates two other facilities in Pasadena, a music center at 3301 Thorndale Road and the Slavik Branch at 3230 E. Del Mar Blvd., which is about eight miles away from the northwest site. The three complexes have a combined membership of 4,846 youngsters.

Founded in 1937, the Pasadena Boys Clubs offer training, activities and educational programs for boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 18.

Temporary Facility

Monk said a temporary facility at nearby Franklin Primary School in Altadena will be opened during the summer to offer trips and tours for neighborhood youngsters.

"In northwest Pasadena," Monk said, "there are all kinds of poverty. There are some real problems in that area. A lot of the parents are single and and the mothers are doing everything they can just to survive. The don't have a whole lot of time to spend with their kids.

"The Boys Club becomes a home away from home for these kids," he continued. "They just need a place to go and a place to grow, to learn who they are, develop their potential and go on from there. It's the job of the Boys Club to identify those potentials and give them a good start."

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