Boys & Girls Club Of SCV's Jim Ventress Honored By Santa Clarita For Service
It was an emotional evening on Friday, June 27, as Jim Ventress, the retiring chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley, received honors and tributes in recognition of his 29 years with the club in the SCV.
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The party, dubbed “Jim Ventress: The Man, The Myth, The Legend,” was held in the gym at the Newhall facility of the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Clarita Valley and attracted more than 100 guests to celebrate Ventress’ retirement.
Newhall building named for Ventress
Ventress, seated on stage in a “royal” chair of red velvet with gold trim, bent over in tears and held his head in his hands when Diane Fiero and Carl Kanowsky, presidents of the Governing Board and Foundation Board of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV made the announcement that the Newhall clubhouse would be renamed in his honor.
Members of both boards surrounded Ventress on stage as he was presented with a photo of what the Newhall clubhouse will look like emblazoned with his name on the building.
Members of the club’s Governing and Foundation boards also presented Ventress, with the assistance of Princess Cruises, a gift of a Princess Cruise.
Ventress will have the choice of either a 10-day Mexican Riviera cruise or a 15-day Hawaiian Island Cruise.
“Jim was grinning ear-to-ear when they presented him with the gift,” said Ronda Chobanian, development director of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV Foundation. “He has always wanted to go on a Princess Cruise.”
Kanowsky welcomed guests to the retirement celebration and read letters from his sons, who were members of the club.
Governing board member Tom Dierckman followed Kanowsky by introducing Ventress and recounting his many accomplishments on behalf of the youth of the SCV.
A parade of dignitaries offered congratulations to Ventress and presented him with resolutions and certificates of recognition.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste read a letter from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and presented Ventress with a commendation from the United States Senate honoring Ventress.
The commendation had been arranged by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“I’ve never seen this before,” said Weste of the Senate commendation.
Weste then presented Ventress with a special award from the city of Santa Clarita, “the key to the city.”
“You will always know that your city loves you,” she said.
The audience laughed when Weste commented, “It (the key) does not open the money vault.”
Representing California State Senator Steve Knight, Weste also presented Ventress with recognition from the California State Senate.
Patsy Ayala, field representative for California State Assemblyman Scott Wilk, presented Ventress with a special resolution from the California State Assembly.
Rosalind Wayman, representing Los Angeles County, Brett Walter, representing U.S. Congressman Buck McKeon, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Capt. Roosevelt Johnson and Hart High School District Superintendent Robert Challinor, also made presentations to Ventress.
Bonnie Rabjohn, president of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor, presented Ventress with an oversized lifetime pass to the Valencia theme park.
“We’ve been so fortunate to work with you and the club,” said Rabjohn. “We see the impact of your work with the kids. We see the results first hand when so many of your kids that have grown up in the club come to work for us Six Flags and we know that they have been touched by Jim Ventress.”
Rabjohn said one of the qualities she appreciates about Ventress is, “You are real.”
“You are authentic, you are real, whether you are talking to a CEO or a kid on the basketball court you are Jim, you are the real deal,” Rabjohn said.
Rabjohn told Ventress that he wasn’t going to “get out of riding the new roller coasters.”
“On behalf of the entire Six Flags family we’re giving you a lifetime pass to Six Flags,” she said.
Ventress stood up to hug Rabjohn and waved the oversize “pass” while smiling broadly.
It is a tradition at Six Flags Magic Mountain that Ventress, accompanied by youth from the Boys & Girls Club of SCV be among the first riders when new coasters are opened at the theme park.
A long career
A host of speakers offered up remarks about Ventress’ long career with the Boys & Girls Club organization, most of it spent in the SCV.
Corey Dantzler of the Challengers Boys & Girls Club, JR Dzubak of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Newhall Branch Manager Matt Nelson of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV and Development Director Ronda Chobanian of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV Foundation, offered insights into Ventress’ 37-year career with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Ventress closed the evening with several stories that touched many in the audience.
He recounted one of his first success stories with troubled teens, the tale of Helen English who, through her involvement with the club, transformed from a life headed toward a life in the gangs to a successful young woman that Ventress walked down the aisle at her wedding.
Ventress teared up when he spoke about a young boy battling cancer and his successful efforts to bring the child together with his idol, Shaquille O’Neil of the Los Angeles Lakers. He later spoke at the child’s funeral.
He also spoke out about the difficulty in getting approval to build the club’s Newhall facility which faced intense opposition in the community.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said.
Ventress said he took then Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Spierer and Santa Clarita Valley community leader Tom Veloz to Newhall Park and showed them what was going on, kids wearing obvious gang colors gathering at the park, smoking and looking for trouble.
He convinced them that a club building in that location would be asset for the community.
In a close, 3-2 vote, the Santa Clarita Parks Commission approved the partnership between the club and the city to build the Newhall facility at Newhall Park.
Ventress acknowledged the support of several late community leaders who were instrumental in helping build the club including Veloz, former Hart High School District Superintendent Clyde Smyth and attorney Sheldon Allen.
The 20,000 sq. ft. Newhall facility was completed in 1994. In 2003, the 27,000 sq. ft. Sierra Vista facility opened in Canyon Country.
Weste, in her remarks at the beginning of the evening told the audience that she and Linda Storli, also in attendance at the event, were two of the three votes that approved the building of the Newhall facility.
“Todd Longshore, bless his heart, he is no longer with us, was the third vote,” she said.
Ventress became emotional when he spoke about how much he will miss working at the club.
“I will miss being at the club every day with the kids, but I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life,” he said. “And I will continue to be around to support the club.”
The evening began with a social hour featuring hors d’ouvres from Salt Creek Grille Catering and a chance for guests to sign a special white rocking chair to be given to Jim. Guests also perused numerous club scrapbooks that detailed the history of the club in the SCV.
A special performance by Ballet Folklorico opened up the festivities to honor Ventress.
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