There’s good news for the children of Mendota: Their Boys and Girls Club no longer is at risk of closing.

After Mendota Mayor Robert Silva addressed the Westlands Water District Board of Directors about the financial troubles the club faced, they stepped up with a $36,000 donation.

“We are so thankful to Westlands Water District Board of Directors for this generous gift to keep the doors of the Mendota Club open to children who rely on the services, positive environment, and diversified educational programs provided by the club every day,” said Kathryn Weakland, vice president of development for Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County.

“We are still working to secure permanent funding, but this will help us seek the right opportunities in the meantime.”

Operating Costs Are Rapidly Rising

Weakland explained that rising operating costs, minimum wage increases, and a lack of sustainable funding sources created big hurdles for the club.

There’s little doubt about the great need for the services the club provides. These include mentoring, arts and crafts, recreation, and nutritious meals.

Photo of Mendota Boys and Girls Club members doing arts and crafts

The club provides afternoon arts and crafts for members after they get out of school. (Fresno County Boys and Girls Clubs)

Club Has More Than 300 Members

The club serves more than 300 children, 95 percent of whom live in public housing near the club, Weakland said. Club members come from families with an average income of $16,000 a year. And, about 85% of the members have a parent or parents who work for farmers in Westlands.

Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands, said the donation was a way of mitigating socioeconomic impacts resulting from the retirement of about 40,000 acres of farmland near Mendota.

The next task, Weakland said, is developing more relationships with potential donors and creating an annual club fundraiser.


One Response

  1. Mark Borba

    FACT: Land retirement/water allocation reductions have caused unnecessary loss of jobs.

    However, I’m concerned that the general public will read this article and focus on the $16,000 annual income per household, and conclude that agriculture pays slave-labor wages, thus causing poverty.

    By law the minimum wage is $12.00/hour…and I (for example) don’t pay hourly rates of less than $13.50. If a 40 hour week (a full time 8 hour per day, 5 days per week job, per the labor department) is the yardstick, 2,080 hours per year at those rates yield much more than $16,000….in fact at the lawful minimum $12 = $24,950.

    As most ag jobs are 10 hours/day & 6 days per week….the average worker earns in 3,120 hours per year @ $12.00 = $37,440.

    I hasten to point out that ALL workers by law are provided health insurance (most with benefits much better than mandated by law) that costs at minimum $.70/hour in addition to the cash wage. My typical “minimum wage” worker earns $14.20/hour and for the 60 hour week, per year = $44,300

    Unfortunately, due to a lack of irrigation water and resultant fallow acres, growers have been forced to cut back, sometimes eliminating full-time jobs. However, most growers have chosen to employ and retain as many long-time employees as possible, with each working fewer hours per day/week/year…in wishful anticipation of improving water supplies.

    Importantly, today’s Westside “poverty” is driven by the lack of a reliable water supply….not “poverty wages”.

    Thanks for hopefully a better understanding. In future articles/news releases…the generous grower-supporters of Boys and Girls Clubs should not be portrayed as causing the poverty we witness on the Westside. The government-caused lack of a reliable Westside water supply since 1990…is the demon. Grower support of Boys & Girls Clubs helps buffer the impacts.

    Thank you.


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