By Tony AguilarCoachella Unincorporated
It’s been a long time coming, and we hope change is going to come. The fifth Boys & Girls Club of the Coachella Valley opened its doors, hearts and services to the residents of the unincorporated community of Mecca on December 2nd. The grand opening of the Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse facility welcomed many local dignitaries and community members. The phrase that repeated incessantly throughout the evening was that Mecca was the most deserving community in the Coachella Valley for this type of facility and one that most needs the services it will provide to the people of Mecca. As a resident of the Eastern Coachella Valley, I couldn’t agree any more.
“Providing a safe place where Mecca’s very deserving young people can grow and have fun is something that we’re extremely proud of,” said Jim Ducatte, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Coachella Valley Foundation. “This incredible facility, made possible by the generous help from the County of Riverside will have a tremendous positive impact on the whole community.”
John Arroyo, 20, who lives in Mecca, agrees with Mr. Ducatte and says he wishes a facility of this magnitude was around when he was growing up.
“When I was in elementary school, we didn’t have much to do after school other than mischief and other funny business,” he said. “This clubhouse will put the youth of Mecca on the right track to a better and brighter future.”
Arroyo went on to say that he planned on enrolling his three nieces and nephews that day for the after-school programs at the new Boys & Girls Club.
“This is just what our youth need,” he said. “Coupled with our new library, sheriff and fire station I see bright, safe futures not only for the youth of Mecca but the entire community.”
It is estimated that this new facility will serve 1,500 members of the community. The $7 million, 30,636-square foot facility houses a cyber café, an exercise and weight room, boxing ring, teen center, gym, basketball court and outdoor courtyard.
“This space that we are in today is a pocket of hope, that people exist in the East Side and need to be cared for as if they are in the West Side,” said Assemblyman Victor Manuel Perez, (D-80th District.) Perez went on to emphasize this pocket of hope by saying that The Boys & Girls Club will help reduce youth violence. “In a time when in the last two months we’ve had six murders amongst youth and over the course of this year we’ve had 22, I think that the community of Mecca and the people of the Eastern Coachella Valley will continue to improve the conditions so that we no longer live in despair and the nightmares of despair.”
I marvel at the fact that Mecca is still an unincorporated community of Riverside County. Over the course of my short life I have seen its people, roads and economy transform into a hub and atmosphere of services deserving of its humble, hard-working community of campesinos. As a resident of the Eastern Coachella Valley, I appreciate the addition of a safe haven for our youth in Mecca. Never before has the name of this community been more fitting.