AMERICAN CANYON — By all accounts, the 3,000-square-foot, triple wide mobile home that used to stand at 160 Benton Way in American Canyon was a dilapidated shack that about 140 children a day utilized for doing homework, learning new things and making new friends. At that same location on Saturday, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley celebrated the grand opening of a brand new, 15,000-square-foot facility estimated to serve 300 children a day.
“Building this building represents our future,” Todd Walker, Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley Board of Directors president, told donors, families and guests at the Napa Valley Vintners American Canyon Clubhouse on Saturday. “The kids who we serve will be the future citizens, workforce and leaders in this community.”
It’s taken a few years for the organization to realize its vision for the new building, added Executive Director Mark Kuhnhausen.
The club started raising money for the new facility about three years ago, Kuhnhausen said, starting with a $1 million gift and a $1 million challenge grant from the Napa Valley Vintners – whom the building is named after, $350,000 from club board members and $30,000 from staff. Over the years, nearly $6 million has been raised to cover building and other costs, including the costs of furnishings, he said.
Kuhnhausen said the club has a $1 per year lease and that the City of American Canyon will be taking care of the landscaping. The building, which will serve as a space for the Boys & Girls Club, will also be available for community events.
American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia called the effort a “partnership.”
“It’s very much a bootstraps type of community,” Garcia said. In American Canyon, he said, everyone helps each other. “We are very much about family here.”
As donors and community members toured the facility for the first time, children in bright blue “Boys & Girls Club” T-shirts greeted them.
Fourth-grader Jade Kraszewski, 9, was stationed inside the building, showing off student artwork.
Jade has been going to the Boys & Girls Club in American Canyon since she was in kindergarten.
“It’s fun and I love doing art, playing with my friends and hanging out with the staff,” she said while showing off an abstract cat painting she made. Jade said she is most excited about using the new art room.
The new building is “cool,” she said, and much better than the old one where chairs were torn and the ceiling leaked.
“It used to be a hobo shack,” third-grader Marcus Earnest, 9, said.
Vannia Dagnino, 11, used to go to the old facility nearly every day for six years before starting fifth grade. She remembers the old building as small with too few chairs and limited space. Still, she said, the time she spent there was valuable to her.
“They actually take care of you,” Vannia said of the staff. They did everything from removing splinters to making sure that she didn’t accidentally eat anything that wasn’t gluten-free since she has Celiac disease.
They also teach kids manners and how to make good choices, she said.
“I’m really hoping for this new building to have the love and appreciation that we had in the old building,” she said.