Girls Inc., a national organization, was founded as “Girls Club” to serve girls and young women in the aftermath of the Civil War. The clubs were founded upon the fundamental belief in the inherent potential of each girl and established the core value of creating a safe gathering place for girls.
Photo courtesy of Girls Inc.
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.
On March 17, 1958, the Girls Club of 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 6-16 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 girls in Goleta.
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 leadership, sports, health education, and cultural and career orientation programs. Santa Barbara membership grew to 520 girls, and Goleta membership grew to 500 girls.
The Girls Clubs continued to grow in popularity and service, expanding 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.
The One Hundred Committee was founded in 1985, establishing an annual philanthropic event to which 100 Santa Barbara women would each contribute $100 to attend.
In 1989 the Girls Club of Santa Barbara and the Girls Club of Goleta merged to become the Girls Club of Greater Santa Barbara.
In 1989, the Williams C. Hall Gymnasium was built at the Ortega Street complex and Girls Club. began to offer a robust gymnastics program that today includes toddler, recreational and competitive team levels of training.
“…because growing up is serious business.” The new decade brought significant changes, including a name change for the organization to Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara. This new name and affiliation with the national Girls Inc. organization reflected a more serious approach to impacting the lives of girls.
During this time, Girls Inc. also established itself as a vigorous advocate for girls.
On November 8, 2004, the community joined Girls Inc. to break ground on the Goleta Valley Center on Hollister Avenue.
Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold: The mission of Girls Inc. was revised to reflect the modern opportunities and challenges facing girls. Research-based national programs offered included Operation SMART, Media Literacy, Economic Literacy, Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy, Sporting Chance, Friendly PEERsuasion, and Project Bold.
The Gymnastics program opened to the general public.
The Goleta Valley Teen Center opened in 2015 for after-school programming for girls in grades 7-12, and in 2017 offered its first summer camp.
In 2017, the Girls Inc. National Organization and its Affiliates unanimously adopt a new advocacy platform to address the challenges girls face today. The four pillars aim to combat sexual harassment and violence, promote access to education and economic independence, support girls’ mental health, and advance reproductive health.
In 2018 Girls Inc. celebrates its 60th Anniversary in Santa Barbara, Imagining the Future for Girls.
Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara celebrates our past
and with your support, will continue to inspire all girls to be