Menifee Valley Boys and Girls Club Set to Open By End of Year

Bill Zimmerman and Sue Kristjansson stand in front of the former Menifee Valley Elementary Schoo...

Bill Zimmerman and Sue Kristjansson stand in front of the former Menifee Valley Elementary School, proposed site of the new Menifee Valley Boys and Girls Club. 

Corrects day of fundraiser
Rocked by tragedy yet uplifted by the community spirit shown during the last week, the residents of Menifee are searching for something positive to come out of the loss of Terry Smith Jr.

One such positive aspect could be the Menifee Valley Boys and Girls Club, which is scheduled to open by the end of the year. A movement to open such a facility in Menifee has been underway for some time, but the timing seems perfect for the arrival of the club, which will provide enriching opportunities for the youth left to carry on where 11-year-old Terry cannot.

Sue Kristjansson, former Menifee City Council member, and Bill Zimmerman, former Menifee planning commissioner, are the driving force behind the club, which has filed articles of incorporation and has received tax exempt status from the state. Kristjansson is chair of the board of directors, which includes Perris Union High School District Superintendent Jonathan Greenberg and Menifee Union School District Superintendent Steve Kennedy.

A survey conducted by club organizers indicated that 94 percent of Menifee residents polled said they would make use of the club. Donations are now being accepted, with the first official fundraiser scheduled for Friday, July 26 at Lake Elsinore Resort & Casino -- a poker tournament with a $60 entry fee, 50/50 drawing and silent auction.

According to Kristjansson, funds raised will primarily be used to purchase sports equipment, office furniture, computers and art supplies. The group is in negotiations with the Menifee Union School District to lease the former Menifee Valley Elementary School on Garbani Road east of Murrieta Road. The school, which most recently was used by Santa Rosa Academy, was closed following the opening of Quail Valley Elementary a few years back.

Kristjansson said the club will be open before and after school and for sports events on the weekend. Those who pay a $25 annual membership fee will have use of the facility, and extra fees can be paid for additional programs. Youth will be exposed to the arts, music, science, and many other enriching activities, in addition to receiving help with homework and participating in sports activities. Youth do not have to be a Menifee resident to attend.

"After seeing the response from our survey, we recognized a real need in this community for safe youth activities," Kristjansson said. "The benefits will stem from the kids who grow up here and use this club.

"We want them to stay here, then go to college, then bring what they've experienced and learned back to the community. This program is not a day care center and it isn't just sports. It's about teaching kids leadership, ethics and morals."

The history of the Boys Club of America dates back well over 100 years. In 1990, the name was changed to the Boys and Girls Club of America. There are four such clubs in Temecula and one in Murrieta, but Kristjansson and Zimmerman saw a strong need for such a club in Menifee.

"I used to drive my daughter to the Murrieta club so she'd have something to do in the summer," Zimmerman said. "This will provide opportunities for families right here in our town."

The target age group of the club is kindergarten through middle school. High school students will be recruited as volunteer mentors and helpers.

According to Boys and Girls Club statistics, 57 percent of alumni say the club "saved my life," 62 percent said it helped them commit to their education, and 85 percent said it taught them right from wrong. Eighty percent said the club had a positive impact on their fitness and health.

"The presence of Boys and Girls Clubs have been linked to a reduction in teen crime, pregnancy and drug use," Kristjansson said.

Zimmerman said club organizers are working on plans to have a bus that could transport youths to and from the club.

The July 26 fundraiser at Lake Elsinore Resort & Casino begins at 6 p.m. In addition to the $60 pre-paid entry fee, guests are offered unlimited $10 rebuys for the first 60 minutes. Mayor Scott Mann has pledged his support of the club and will attend the event.

To register for the poker tournament fundraiser, if you have questions about the club, or to make a donation, contact Sue Kristjansson at 951-282-4717 or Steve Glynn at 951-551-2180.

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