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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : BUENA PARK

Making a Career out of Making a Difference

Bob Eastland has spent 42 years at the Boys and Girls Club because, he says, 'I just love working with kids.'

May 09, 2000|ANDRE BRISCOE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bruce Hird, director of the Buena Park Boys and Girls Club, admits that sometimes he feels like he is playing second fiddle to one of his employees.

"When I first took over here I remember walking into the restroom and one of the kids asked who I was," Hird said. "I told him I was the new executive director and he said, 'You must be the new guy working for Bob.' "

Anyone working since 1958 is the new guy at the club compared to Bob Eastland, who has worked at the club in one form or another since then. In 42 years the soft-spoken, 63-year-old Eastland held only one other job--as a construction worker. He said the reason he has stayed so long is simple: "I just love working with kids."

"He has just become an institution in this city," Hird said. "Not a day in the week goes by that someone doesn't walk in here off the street to see him. One guy who had to be 50 years old told me once that Bob taught him how to cut wood."

Over the years he has done every job at the club from janitor to games director. But these days his main responsibility is overseeing of the club's Forgotten Children Program, a collaboration between the Buena Park, Savanna and Centralia school districts. The program tries to help deaf students and those with attention deficit disorder.

Eastland prepares the materials for the classes at the club and provides transportation to and from schools for the more than 200 students in the program.

Eastland is also a committee chair in the Amateur Athletic Union and has created the Duff Finlay Torch Games for the deaf in honor of his brother-in-law who died of cancer.

This year's event will be held June 7 at Cal State Fullerton.

Because of his work with special-needs children, Eastland was honored by having an AAU tournament--the Eastland Cup--named after him. "His work is what keeps him going," Hird said. "And you can put money on it that someone will always walk in here and ask if Bob is still around."

Andre Briscoe can be reached at (714) 966-5848.

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