ECHO PARK : Funds Buy Time for Youth Center

The Boys and Girls Club of Echo Park, which has faced closure twice in the past three months because of financial difficulties, has won yet another reprieve.

The club will stay open through April as community members continue to discuss more efficient ways of running the facility at 303 Patton St.

Among the latest ideas being studied is the possibility of partnerships with other nonprofit agencies--such as the Ketchum Downtown YMCA--to provide more programs at minimal cost, said Tom Stretz, executive director of the Hollywood Boys and Girls Club, which oversees the Echo Park branch.

Originally slated to close Dec. 31, the Echo Park club was granted a three-month reprieve by the governing board of directors after community members showed interest in keeping the club open.


With the March 31 deadline approaching, supporters managed to find $16,000 to keep the facility open at least another month, Stretz said. The money came from several donors who originally contributed to the Hollywood club but now have asked that their donations be used to help the Echo Park branch, Stretz said.

Meanwhile, corporate and community leaders are still trying to form a new board of directors to oversee the Echo Park club and to find donors to back the facility on a long-term basis. The board of the Hollywood club is responsible for operations at both facilities.

Current board member Dan Niemann, Councilman Mike Hernandez and other community leaders began rounding up support last fall after the board decided to close the Echo Park branch, which for six years has provided a haven from violence and gang activity for children ages 6 to 18.

Although the Echo Park club has been successful in its youth programs, it has been a financial drain on the nonprofit corporation, according to officials.


Community contributions have been scarce, forcing Boys and Girls Club officials to tap into the organization’s reserves to run the Echo Park facility, which costs about $160,000 to $200,000 a year, according to Stretz.

But Stretz said he is optimistic about the club’s future because of the recent community response. Representatives of companies and agencies such as the Department of Water and Power, the Arco Foundation and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division are among those involved in the effort, Stretz said.

Robert Wilkins, Ketchum YMCA associate executive director, said discussions about a partnership are still in the preliminary stages. He warned that there are a number of issues, including financial feasibility, that must be addressed, but he expressed support for helping the club stay open.

“I personally want every social service agency in Downtown to be strong . . . and serve the kids and the community,” Wilkins said. “That facility needs to stay open. Who the players are, I don’t care.”