SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Planning to help thousands of kids throughout Santa Barbara County in 2022 has been boosted by a donation of $1-million from philanthropist Virgil Elings to the United Boys & Girls Clubs.
"I believe helping out with the education so they (the kids) can spend more time doing that," said Elings while touring the Camp Whittier site in the Santa Ynez Valley. It is run by the United Boys & Girls Clubs in addition to their buildings in northern and southern Santa Barbara County.
During the COVID crisis, Elings also helped to fund a rapid response plan to help with on site education at the clubs when schools were remote and parents were at work.
The outside camp includes a science and math camp named after Elings and instructors there enrich the students in the outdoors environment. For some, it is their first exposure to a camp and learning about the environment this way.
Elings is an MIT graduate who had break through work at UC Santa Barbara in the 90's. He founded the Digital Instruments company and has been supportive of several organizations and non profits in the community.
His name is on the Buellton Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as Elings Park off Las Positas in Santa Barbara and the Elings Hall at UC Santa Barbara where the California NanoSystems Institute is located.
For the youngest students, and those attending the clubs, he supports more hands on learning with a teacher present.
"I don't believe in virtual education. Never have. I thought once they went to that they were going backwards," he said. Elings says during COVID many students had a difficult time learning, and the Boys & Girls clubs are helping them recover.
Executive Vice President of Advancement Laurie Leis says "he sees the work we are doing and he believes in us and my heart fills. We are really grateful for him and all support and supporting 5000 kids on our county.
Some of the new buildings at Camp Whittier visited by Elings Tuesday, were replaced after the destructive 2017 Whittier fire that roared through a portion of the 95 acres.
Elings also saw school kids who were here for several days of learning and instruction they would not get on their campuses.
"There's some real gems in there too," he said. "They really need to be given a chance and they will do it on their own and so we are trying to give people a chance." One of the students had an MIT hat on, the college where Elings attended.
United Boys and Girls Club Executive Officer Michael Baker said, "it's a whole new world and we don't know what is going to be down the road in 2022 and this gift is going to allow us to make sure we are not going to be turning anyone away in the future as well."
This comes at a time when there are needs for each club from Lompoc to Carpinteria and the donation is unrestricted on how it can be used.
Baker said, "what made my heart fill today is hearing Virgil say the best investment he makes is in the Boys and Girls Club and that speaks volumes. People in this community know Virgil and what he gives to and when he steps up and gives to an organization like the Boys & Girls Club others will follow."
These days the after school numbers at the clubs are coming back to close to pre Covid levels, and no child is turned away.
Leis said, "it's keeping connected with our kids that really, truly need us." She often runs into adults who say they attended the Boys & Girls clubs as kids and their lives had a more positive outcome because of it.
For more information go to : United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County