Roseland children’s hopes and dreams embedded in nearly completed Boys & Girls club

Construction of the facility, which will bring underserved children in Roseland a teen center, a real dance studio, an art and science/technology lab and a full-size commercial kitchen, is expected to be completed by next month.|

The hopes and dreams of Roseland school children are built into the walls of the nearly completed Boys and Girls Club in southwest Santa Rosa.

Literally. They’re written all over the building’s plywood shear panels by more than 250 Boy & Girls Club members from the Roseland area who a month ago were invited to see what’s being built for them.

Their aspirations include taking care of family or becoming a soccer player, a doctor, an actor, a teacher or a Boys & Girls Club employee. The kids were brought in to see how quickly their home-away-from-home was being built; many were awed.

Austin Whited, project superintendent for Gallaher Construction, the facility’s designer and builder, recalled how one child asked if they could live there.

“One said, ‘I can’t believe someone donated money to have this built for us,’” Whited said.

The children’s written aspirations, now covered with drywall, plaster taping and a fresh coat of paint, are a powerful reminder of what the new $17 million facility represents, said Jennifer Weiss, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin. It was Weiss’ idea to have the kids embed their thoughts into the building.

“I wanted the kids to get to see it as it was being built,” Weiss said. “So they'd have that experience, and why not? This is about their hopes and dreams, so what better way?”

“We brought them on small tours and in every tour there was at least some of the kids crying, saying like this, I can’t believe this is all for me,” Weiss added.

Construction of the facility, which will bring underserved children in Roseland a teen center, a real dance studio, an art and science/technology lab and a full-size commercial kitchen, is expected to be completed by next month.

The new facility will add a fifth Boys & Girls Club to the Roseland area, though the existing four are housed at local schools. Weiss said the four clubs offer after-school programs and meals to about 1,000 children, with another 1,000 on a waiting list.

The new building is expected to increase capacity to 2,500 children within a year’s time, Weiss said. The four school-based programs, at Roseland Elementary, Sheppard Elementary, Roseland Accelerated Middle and Roseland Creek Elementary schools, will continue to operate.

The building has gone up at a dizzying pace, said Weiss, adding that major construction began in March and the pace has never slowed.

Funding for the project came from a number of sources, including private donations and government dollars, as well as donated construction services from the builder. Developer Bill Gallaher and his wife, Cindy Gallaher, contributed $5.5 million in cash and are personally overseeing the project.

Other funding sources include $3.5 million in New Market Tax Credits, $250,000 from Peter & Ginny Haas Fund, $1,450,000 from Sonoma County Vintners, $50,000 from Jackson Family Wines and a total of $2,750,000 from two anonymous donors.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mike Thompson requested $4 million in federal funding for the project, including it in the fiscal year 2023 funding legislation. Weiss said last week, Thompson assured her that money was forthcoming and would be approved this week.

Prior to the November election, there was a fear the funding would be derailed if Republicans swept the House and Senate. That never happened. A Thompson spokesman confirmed that the $4 million was included in the government funding legislation.

“It still needs to be passed and signed into law but we’re close,” Jack Stelzner, Thompson’s communications director, said in an email.

That leaves a little more than $2.5 million that still needs to be raised. Weiss said a capital campaign to help raise those funds will be launched early next year.

Weiss said the only remaining hurdle is getting electrical service from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. She said the utility is unable to estimate a time for completion of electrical work until construction is completed.

“The concern is that we are hearing that there have been very lengthy delays, up to months,” Weiss said. “We are very eager to avoid these delays since the kids are ready now. We think it’s just a couple of days of work.”

PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland said the utility appreciates the need for a timely opening of the facility.

“The Santa Rosa Boys and Girls Club will play an important role in our community,” McFarland said in an email. “We are working closely with the organization’s leadership to meet their expedited timeline for construction. We’re doing all that we can to minimize delays and get them connected to PG&E gas and electric services.”

Weiss said she was doubtful when Bill Gallaher last spring told her construction would be done by the end of the year. But she said she’s now a believer, and the work has progressed as planned since the foundation was poured back in March and vertical construction began in July.

“I swear it has to be the fastest built commercial building in Sonoma County’s history,” Weiss said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @pressreno.

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