By Jade Martinez-Pogue

Noozhawk Staff Writer

Community members gathered on the patio of the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club building on East Canon Perdido Street downtown to tie blue ribbons, signifying the merging of the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club with the United Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara County.

“All we really want is to help kids in our community and we’re better at this together than separate,” said Tony Vallejo, president of the United Boys & Girls Club board.

A dream that finally came to fruition after eight months of deliberation and planning, Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club joined the United organization to serve more than 5,000 youth from Carpinteria to Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc.

This is the first time that all clubs in the area will operate together since the oldest Boys & Girls Club was founded in 1938.

“Since opening its doors for the first time in 1938, the Downtown Club has built a tremendous history,” said David Bolton, president of the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club. “Together the clubs will continue to touch the lives of countless youth in such a positive way.”

The merging of these two organizations will ensure that all kids, regardless of where they live, will have access to the same benefits to put them on their way to a path of success. By merging the two organizations, more programs and scholarships will be available to community youth.

“This long overdue merger of our two great organizations will create a stronger, more efficient organization that will allow us to devote even more resources to the children of our community,” Vallejo said.

The announcement of the merger came Monday, the same day the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club reopened its doors to community youth. Both organizations hope the announcement will serve as a boost for the reopening of the youth summer club.

United will now focus on reopening additional clubs throughout the region to focus on youth that have fallen behind in homeschooling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our mission to help the children of our community, especially those that need us most, has never been more important now in these difficult times,” Vallejo said.

Michael Baker will continue to serve as the CEO of the United Boys & Girls Club and Laurie Leis has joined United to serve as the executive vice president of development.

“We’re truly united today,” Bolton said.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at