Residents in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood celebrated the grand opening of a new Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco clubhouse today that they say will serve as a much-needed safe haven for kids in their community.
The new clubhouse serves as a beacon of hope at a time when youth living in hundreds of public housing units nearby continue to be exposed to gun violence.
Just last month, four young men were fatally shot in a stolen car on Page Street near Laguna and Octavia streets.
The site of the quadruple homicide is roughly five blocks from the new clubhouse.
San Francisco resident and longtime Boys and Girls Clubs member, Ronnika Singletary, 18, attended today’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the new clubhouse alongside city leaders such as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Board of Supervisors President London Breed, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
Singletary said the new clubhouse would serve as a much-needed safe space for youth in a community that is not always safe.
Singletary said that when she was 16 years old she was struck in the leg by a stray bullet near the intersection of Fillmore and McAllister streets, also about five blocks from the new clubhouse.
She said she has “tried to move forward and stay positive” after being shot, but that the incident causes her mental stress, as she continuously feels the need to look over her shoulder and is startled when she hears loud noises.
She said the club helped make her the motivated person who she is today, despite the obstacles she has had to overcome.
Singletary plans to graduate from high school in May and is looking forward to attending college.
Singletary previously worked part-time at the now-closed Ernest Ingold Clubhouse in the Upper Haight neighborhood. The new Don Fischer Clubhouse, located on Fulton Street, about a block from City Hall, has replaced the Ernest Ingold Clubhouse and is more accessible to youth living in the Western Addition.
Ten-year-old Kayla Craig, one of the founding members of the new clubhouse, also spoke today before donors, clubhouse staff and city officials.
Kayla said that she is honored to be a founding member and said she can hardly wait to start swimming in the club’s pool and playing in the large gymnasium.
“My neighborhood is fun, but sometimes it can be boring,” Kayla said today, prompting laughter from the assembled crowd.
Among the major donors to the clubhouse was the Fischer family, made famous for founding the Gap clothing company.
Don Fischer, for whom the new clubhouse is named, served on the San Francisco Boys and Girls Clubs’ board of trustees for more than 46 years. He died in 2009.
The clubhouse consists of not only a swimming pool and large gymnasium, but also a recreation room with ping-pong tables and foosball, a recording studio, a design-build space and numerous areas for youth to receive homework help.
The clubhouse director, Spencer Tolliver, expressed to donors and community members alike, the important role the clubhouse plays in the lives of young people.
He said not only does the club support academic success, good health, strong character, community engagement and job readiness, but more importantly, it provides a place for children to receive guidance, love and comfort.
The clubhouse, Tolliver said, is a place where the community can protect children from burdens such as bullying, peer pressure, hunger, loneliness, and loss.
Tolliver said it is the community’s responsibility to “ease, if not eradicate, the heavy loads they carry daily.”
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News