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Fair Game:

Kids’ club needs help

wine cellar steps up

August 24, 2007|By TOM JOHNSON

Earlier this week I toured the three local Boys & Girls Clubs of the Harbor Area, two in Costa Mesa and one in Newport Beach.

I was familiar with Boys & Girls Clubs. A dozen or more years ago when my daughter was seeking a basketball league to play in, we found the club in Irvine.

Basketball is the most common way people find out about them.

But two things struck me on my tour.

One, the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area is a lot more than just basketball. They’re about after-school programs many parents depend on.

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They’re about computer labs for kids, arts and crafts, SAT preparation programs, kindergarten programs, homework study programs and, in lots of cases, just a plain, fun place for young folks to hang out at.

They all appeared to be an environment where children could escape the streets and get into structured, well-organized programs.

But the other thing that struck me was the funding, or better put, the lack of funding for these local clubs.

Now, I might expect a club located on the Westside of Costa Mesa to be somewhat under-funded due to the nature of the neighborhood. But the same rang true for both the Eastside Costa Mesa and the Newport Beach clubs.

Old furniture, or, in some cases, no furniture, carpet in drastic need of replacement, tired ping pong tables, basketball hoops with missing nets, walls in need of paint and lights that looked like a throwback to years gone by.

What didn’t compute was that, despite the tired old facilities, great things appeared to be happening inside the walls. Children were somehow succeeding.

I met kids and heard of great accomplishments. Of a boy who began playing basketball there and who eventually climbed all the way to the top of the professional world by making the NBA league.

Or of the boy who took an SAT test and did poorly. Then, by entering and completing an internal club SAT preparation course, increased his score on a re-test by 300 points.

Other stories of success could be seen in boys and girls who were once off track in their young lives. For some, success meant college. For others, success was simply measured by avoiding getting pregnant or joining a gang.

As I said, all three local facilities are in dramatic need of funding. Surrounding communities in some cases, and not just Santa Ana, have budgets five or six times as large.

This brings me to Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

Hi-Time is celebrating 50 years of business success this Sunday. And they’re doing it in a big way.

Live bands, cold beer, wine, margaritas and a good old-fashioned chili cook-off in their parking lot. There’s a $5 entry fee, with all proceeds going to, you guessed it, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Harbor Area.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The bands include the Flock of 80s, doing covers from the ’80s and ’90s, and Porterhouse Bob, a New Orleans-type honky tonk and blues band.

As of press time, 28 chili booths, including the Costa Mesa Police Department, will be competing for the right to call theirs the best.

There will be raffles roughly every half-hour and I hear Hi-Time’s vendors have been very kind in their donations for it.

So go and have fun. Remember, the money is going to some great kids.

Hi-Time Wine Cellars is located at 250 Ogle St. For more information visit www.hitimewine.net.

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