RANCHO SANTA FE — Back in 1971 in Rancho Santa Fe, a group of people got together and decided they needed a community center for its residents.
“There were 17 families who recognized a need for something for after school and summer and that is what we still do,” said Allison Stratton, president of the board of directors of the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center.
The 40-year mark was celebrated this April at the center’s annual gala where hundreds of members, past members and fans turned out to support the organization.
The center started out in the school’s gym, said Erin Leahey, executive director of the community center.
“It operated like that for many years — it was used by the school during the day and the community center after school hours,” Leahey said.
As the population increased, the need to build its own facility became apparent.
So, 15 years ago, at a cost of $3 million, the current building was constructed. It’s still going strong.
“Things are great. Our programs are full of kids who seem like they are having a good time this summer,” she said. “We have a really strong Junior Dunkers for both boys and girls,” she said.
Stratton said in addition to programs for children, the center also helps in community events like the Fourth of July Parade and Picnic and Rancho Days. And for adults there are yoga classes and wine events. The local Toastmasters Club meets there as well and coming in the fall, Jazzercise will be offered.
Leahey said that joining the community center is a great option for the working parents in Rancho Santa Fe, because it gives them peace of mind and a safe, nurturing, educational opportunity for their children.
The after school program offers many activities including arts and crafts, trips to the library, ping pong, sports and homework time.
“We let them play first,” she said.
Many parents who have found themselves delayed or tangled in freeway traffic can simply call the school and the community center and ask for their child to be picked up from school and taken to the center.
Stratton said she used that service herself when she forgot about fairgrounds traffic and found herself stuck on the freeway.
“I called the community center and that took away a lot of the stress of the day,” she said.
The operation of the community center has hit a few financial bumps along the way because of the cranky economy, but with the help of the community and a push for fundraising, the situation has gotten much better.
“We met our fiscal budget this year and we are happily back on track and we are continuing to face the issue of maintaining the facility because we don’t have an endowment for that, so we continue to fundraise every year to cover the overhead,” Stratton said.
The search goes on for a new executive director to replace Erin Leahey who has decided to move on.
“We are always looking for people who are interested in helping on the board or a committee. It is a great place to meet people and get involved in the community,” she said.
When Stratton moved to Rancho Santa Fe nine years ago, she said the Moms and Tots program at the community center was instrumental in helping her meet new people.
“When my kids, (now 8 and 10) reached school age, they began doing after school and summer programs. It has been a huge part of my life,” said Stratton.
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