In 1938, leaders in Santa Barbara recognized a need for a community youth center. Too many young boys had no place to go outside of school so local firefighters stepped up to turn their old station into the Boys’ Club of Santa Barbara. What is now the Downtown Boys & Girls Club was completed in 1947 after a large community effort by local philanthropists, tradesmen, government leaders, and families. This club was always known for its athletic programs, with alumni like NBA Laker Jamaal Wilkes and NFL players Randall and Sam Cunningham.
Additional club sites under a sister organization were gradually built on the westside of Santa Barbara and in Goleta, Carpinteria, Lompoc, Buellton, and Solvang. What started with a dozen boys in an old building turned into a countywide network of clubs with thousands of members. In 2020, all club sites merged together to form the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County (UBGC). Every individual club has a remarkable history that could fill volumes, but all have essentially the same broad pattern: an alliance of forward-thinking and kind people joining together to help create better futures for local youth.