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GARDEN GROVE : Clubs’ Plan to Merge Draws Opposition

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About two dozen demonstrators picketed a board meeting of the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove Thursday to protest the club’s imminent merger with the Girls Club of Garden Grove.

Children and their parents waved signs reading “We Are the Future” and “Kids Are People Too,” chanting as board members drove down Larson Avenue on their way to the meeting at the Lions Club headquarters.

Protest organizer Roxanne Padilla said parents are worried that fees will go up after the merger and that many of them will not be able to afford to send their children to the club.

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“They want us out of the streets and out of trouble,” said Justin Esquivel, 17, one of the protesters. “But we can’t come here anymore. My mom can’t afford it.”

Pat Halberstadt, executive director of the Girls Club of Garden Grove for the past 20 years, said there are no plans to increase fees now, but acknowledged that fees could rise if costs go up.

Board director Bruce Beauchamp said that parents should not rush to judge the merits of the merger.

“If they give it a chance, instead of fighting it every step of the way, they will find out that the whole effort is to improve services to the community,” Beauchamp said.

The protest had no effect on the merger plans. The two organizations, which provide recreational and other services to youngsters here and in neighboring cities, are scheduled to merge July 1, said Bob Garrett, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove.

The new organization will be called Girls and Boys Clubs of Garden Grove Inc. and will be run by a 34-member board of directors made up of former directors of the two organizations. The new board will meet for the first time Thursday, Garrett said.

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The Boys and Girls Club currently offers recreational programs at its Larson Avenue headquarters. The Girls Club operates five child-care centers. After the merger, the new club will serve about 700 children ages 5 to 18.

Halberstadt, who will serve as executive director of the new club, said the merger was a logical move aimed at providing expanded services to the community.

“We were beginning to discover we were duplicating some services and competing for the tight charitable dollars in our community,” Halberstadt said. “The motivating factor was we realized we could do so much more if we worked together.”

Merger talks between the two groups started more than a year ago, Halberstadt said. In January, directors from both sides approved the merger, and set July 1 to complete the process.

Padilla and other parents said they were never consulted about the merger.

“We’re protesting because of the lack of respect toward the parents and club members by the board of directors,” Padilla said.

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