The Rutherford Report: Businessman Helps Boys & Girls Club Thrive

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“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

—Angela Schwindt
Businessman Helps Boys & Girls Club Thrive

It’s no surprise that Dennis Parker thinks like a businessman.

The 71-year-old Lake Arrowhead resident founded Wideworld Sportswear, Inc.—a successful emblematic apparel business—nearly four decades ago and continues to serve as its president today.

Parker’s business acumen has been a boon for the Boys and Girls Club of the Mountain Communities since he joined the nonprofit’s Board of Directors in the mid-1990s.

When Mountain Communities Boys and Girls Club founder John Iacono invited him to join the board, Parker was already serving on the board of Guiding Angels, which helped mountain teens find jobs and develop work skills. Realizing their work coincided, the two merged into the Boys and Girls Club to better leverage their limited funding and to help more kids.

Later, Iacono purchased an old building on Forest Shade Road in Crestline to serve as the club’s headquarters. The building needed a lot of work before it could serve as a safe hangout for local kids, but the club didn’t have a lot of money for renovations.

Parker and his fellow board members sought the help of local contractors and secured donations from businesses, such as Rim Forest Lumber, to stretch their $5,000 budget into a nearly $90,000 remodel of the building.

“Funding has been a struggle since the day I got involved with the club,” Parker said. “You lived by grants, but those have been drying up year after year.”

As the club grew, Parker helped develop and organize fundraisers to generate money for the club and its multiple programs, including before and after school care, academic tutoring, and a host of kid-friendly activities.

Now in its 14th year, Bid for Kids is the club’s original fundraiser. It’s held annually at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. Guests purchase a dinner and get to bid on a multitude of items that range from luxury cruises to lunch with their County Supervisor. This year’s event is being held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 9.

While the auction generates some revenue, Parker said the real money comes from local residents writing checks to the club.

The club also hosts two golf tournaments—the Pines to Palms Golf Tournament at Bermuda Dunes Country Club in March and the Lake Arrowhead Golf Classic in October—to generate funds. Businesses and organizations such as the Ted Roy Charity Foundation, Lake Arrowhead Country Club, Burrtec Waste Industries, Inc., Toyota and Subaru of San Bernardino, Serenity Lodge, The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, Witherbee Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Mountain News, Rotary Club of Lake Arrowhead, and many other businesses and residents purchase tournament sponsorships that generate tens of thousands of dollars for the Boys and Girls Club.

“Even with all of that, we still didn’t have enough money to serve all of the kids we’d like to serve,” Parker said.

Last year when the club lost its largest grant and faced the possibility of losing its Valley of Enchantment site and two vital programs, Parker suggested the club take matters into its own hands by opening a thrift store and using its profits to make up for the lost revenue.

As fate would have it, Michele Cohen Miller—the owner of an existing thrift store in Cedar Glen—wanted to close and offered to donate her remaining stock and fixtures. The Boys and Girls Club snapped it up.

Once again local businesses and contractors such as Malcom Enterprises, Brett Butler, Rim Forest Lumber, Duringer Law Group, Glendora Glass, Swisstrax Flooring, Wendt Brothers Painting and the Lombard and Sacalas Families, teamed together to do about $40,000 in remodeling for the club.

After that the Mountain News and Subaru of San Bernardino funded a complete two-year advertising campaign that has driven tremendous numbers of customers to the Cedar Glen Resale Boutique and Home Goods Store since it opened in March 2014.

“It’s been extremely good to us because it’s given us a steady stream of income,” Parker said. “The club is in the best financial position it’s been in for 20 years.”

In addition to bringing in revenue, the store also serves as a public relations tool for the club.

“It allows you to bring in volunteers, and it gives you contact with people every day,” Parker said. “We’ve received more than $50,000 in donations since the store opened.”

Thanks to the thrift store’s success, the club’s board is investigating opening a fourth Boys and Girls Club site at Charles Hoffman Elementary School in Running Springs.

While Parker’s business sense has helped the Boys and Girls Club find its financial footing over the years, his heart is what’s kept him motivated to serve.

“Anytime I think about quitting, I go over to watch those kids, and I listen to them saying, ‘I don’t want to go home yet mommy. Can’t we stay a little longer,’” he said. “I just want to provide these kids with a great place to go with great structure. I think giving kids a safe place after school keeps them out of trouble and, in turn, helps us as a community.”

Learn more about the Boys and Girls Club of the Mountain Communities at
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