In 1955, the Junior Women’s Club of Santa Barbara responded to a teenager’s plea on a local “Free Speech” radio program. The young woman asked “Why can’t we have a Girls Club in Santa Barbara?” Mrs. Ada McReynolds Wise, a retired dress designer and member of the Women’s Club responded.
1958 – 1969
On March 17, 1958, the Girls Club of Santa Barbara (now Girls Incorporated of Greater Santa Barbara) was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The mission: To help girls become good wives, mothers, homemakers, and citizens. The Girls Club served 280 girls a year ages 6 through 16 years, and the annual membership fee was $1 per girl. In 1964, $225,000 was raised to purchase land and build the first Girls Club facility in Santa Barbara at 531 E. Ortega Street. In 1966, the Girls Club of Goleta was founded and began offering services to Goleta girls.
The focus of the Girls Club of Santa Barbara and Goleta began to change, to help girls grow-up to become well-rounded, independent young women. Programs were expanded to include youth leadership, sports, health education, and cultural and career orientation programs. Santa Barbara membership grew to 520 girls, with 100 girls attending daily, and Goleta membership grew to 500 girls, with 80 attending daily.
The Girls Club continued to grow in popularity and service. In addition to programs offered at both Centers, programs were expanding and being offered through the Parks and Recreation Department, and the Santa Barbara School District. The Girls Club published “Choices” and “Challenges,” teen-life planning journals, and formed Advocacy Press, a non-profit publishing company. In 1989, the Williams C. Hall Gymnasium was built. It was also in 1989 that the Girls Club of Santa Barbara and the Girls Club of Goleta merged to become the Girls Club of Greater Santa Barbara.
This new decade brought with it a significant occurrence in the history of the Girls Club. A name change for the organization to Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, and an affiliation with the National organization that began during the industrial revolution, in response to the needs of a new working class. This new name and affiliation reflected a more serious approach to impacting the lives of girls, and was necessary—as a girl herself said, “because growing up is serious business”!
The mission today of Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara is to Inspire all Girls to be Strong, Smart, and Bold. We offer programs at our Santa Barbara Center campus and Goleta Valley Center. Programs today include: Operation SMART, Media Literacy, Economic Literacy, Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy, Sporting Chance, Friendly PEERsuasion, Project Bold and many more. The Gymnastics program is available to both Girls Inc. members and the general public.
Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara celebrates our past
and with your support, will continue to inspire all girls to be