When Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin accepted membership into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame in San Diego recently, he mentioned one of his childhood trips with the Newhall branch of the national nonprofit that has provided before- and after-school programs for decades.
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It’s moments like that that longtime Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley leader Jim Ventress enjoys most when looking back on more than 30 years of mentoring.
“(Ervin) had everybody in the audience in stitches and that makes you feel good, too,” Ventress said. “You know they go on with their life (after leaving the club), and you feel like you’re a part of that, and that’s priceless.”
Jim Ventress announced his intention to retire after spending more than three decades in various executive leadership positions, the last 29 years in Santa Clarita.
The move was announced in an email from an official with the Santa Clarita Valley Boys & Girls Club.
The organization has benefitted thousands of Santa Clarita Valley children since Ventress came to the area to lead it, including doctors, lawyers, teachers and a pair of Olympians.
Alysia Montano, whose father volunteered as athletic director at the Newhall club for its first four years.
Ventress repeatedly thanked the board members, volunteers, club staffers and the community for what the club has been able to achieve — tremendous community growth and, then for its survival for the last five years, in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
He jokingly likened his retirement decision to a scene with Tom Hanks’ character in “Forrest Gump,” who after three years of running across the country, stops abruptly and addresses the crowd with him.
“At one point in time, he just turns and says, ‘I’m tired, and I think I’ll go home now,’” Ventress said, “and that’s kind of how I addressed the board.”
He wanted to help the club find a new, younger executive to take over — someone with more energy.
“You start to get to that time where you feel like, ‘I’m starting to slow down,’” Ventress said.
Sticking around to help the club find his replacement is the “smart move,” he said, adding that the club will work as a committee with the national office to find his successor.
The club expects to have his replacement in office by April 1, he said.
“Jim has been a pillar in the community and the savior of our youth for four decades,” the statement read. “Despite having fully earned his retirement, (Ventress) has agreed to help the club with the transition.”
Ventress has served as chief professional officer for the last 10 years, but he’s been with the organization much longer than that.
Ventress was with the Silesian Boys Club of Los Angeles for eight years before he came to Santa Clarita in 1985. Nearly all of that time has been spent in various leadership positions with the organization.
“Jim has dedicated his life to our valley’s children and families,” said Diane Fiero, Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club governing board president. “With his passionate belief in the Boys and Girls Club of America movement, positive regard for the kids, devotion to making sure they have a safe place to go filled with sports, arts, leadership opportunities, and a focus on academic achievement and healthy lifestyles, he will be nearly impossible to replace. We will miss him dearly, but he has certainly earned his retirement.”
Formed by a group of community leaders who saw a need for a place where kids could go for affordable high-end recreation programs, the organization has come a long way since, servicing the after-school needs of kids and teens at club locations in Newhall at Newhall Park and the facility in Canyon Country, on the campus of Sierra Vista Junior High School, according to a statement from the club.
Ventress started with the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley when the club operated five satellite locations that served 600 boys and girls. His office was located at the Plaza Posada building on Lyons Avenue in Newhall.
There is also a smaller club in Val Verde.
(Leon Worden of SCVNews.com contributed to this report.)
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Source: Santa Clarita News