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West SGV YMCA Breaks Ground for New Children’s Center

  • Assembly Member Ed Chau and YMCA Board President Barbara Messina, each holding shovels at center, prepare to turn dirt at ceremonial groundbreaking for the children's center. All photos by Alan Miyatake/ Toyo Miyatake Studio.

  • Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) was honored and credited by SGV leaders for working to secure the grant from the California Department of Education in Sacramento to fund the new building.

  • Representative Judy Chu presents Congressional Certificate of Recognition to YMCA CEO Valarie Gomez and YMCA Board President Barbara Messina.


Alhambra , CA

It was a time for celebrating at the West San Gabriel Valley YMCA as political leaders from the city and region, came together to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Alhambra facility’s new Children’s Center. They were joined by a  diverse group of perhaps 100 day campers all attired in Y t-shirts who helped put the project in perspective.

State Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) was the man of hour, credited by all with working tirelessly to obtain the $1.82 million grant from the California Department of Education in Sacramento to fund the new building.

Representative Judy Chu, whose 27th Congressional District includes Alhambra, was in attendance and spoke of her pride in the work being accomplished at the West San Gabriel Valley YMCA. She introduced Chau to the gathering and called him a champion in getting the first California Department of Education capital grant for a YMCA for this project.

Chau’s association with the Y is also personal. A YMCA member, Chau swims there regularly when he’s in the district. In his comments, he credited Y Board President and former Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and Y CEO Valarie Gomez for their support for this project and termed this success a “team effort.” Messina, in turn, thanked Chau and also thanked Alhambra city staff for fast tracking the project through the review and permit process.

With the ever increasing number of homeless families in the San Gabriel Valley, the YMCA has become a safe haven for children offering reduced cost day care and other programs to help families in need.

The new center, expected to be completed by the spring of 2020, will offer a variety of amenities for families in need including family locker rooms and showering areas. The center will also include three large classrooms for the ever growing number of children, a large kitchen when children and parents will have cooking lessons, a nurses station, a laundry area for families as well as offices for YMCA staff. The CDE grant, while remarkable, only covers structural costs. Donations will be needed for equipment like a commercial washer, dryer and refrigerator.

Architects Robert McClellan and Bahram Badiyi of McClellan + Badiyi Architects have been working on plans for over a year. Efforts to fund this project started in 2017, when Messina helped facilitate a meeting between Chau, Gomez and Dr. Laurel Bear, then an Alhambra Unified School District official who championed the Gateway to Success program in AUSD schools.

Gomez and Bear discussed the parameters of the initiative with Chau and made the $1.82 million ask.

Remarkably, it has come to fruition.

The groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning was attended by a who’s-who of city, regional and state officials. In addition to Rep. Chu, Assembly Member Chau, and Y leaders Messina and Gomez, Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler, City Council members Jeff Maloney and Katherine Lee and City Manager Jessica Binnquist were in attendance.

Robert L. Gin, the president of the Alhambra Unified School District’s board of education was introduced as well as Denise R. Jaramillo, the superintendent of AUSD. The district works extensively with the Y on a variety of outreach projects. Gin noted that “it takes a whole village these days to educate our kids.” Steve Perry, a champion of children’s education as the president of the Alhambra Educational Foundation, was also present as was Sharon Gibbs, the executive director of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, and officers from the Alhambra Police Department and the Alhambra Fire Department.

Members of the YMCA’s board of directors, including former Alhambra Mayor Mary Louise Bunker, Rosemead Mayor Margaret Clark, Alhambra Fire Department Battalion Commander Edward Guerrero, Joe Pavon of Joe Pavon Towing, were present as well as Carla Bogss, a field representative from State Senator Susan Rubio’s office, and Christian Daly, an assistant field deputy from the office of L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

After the dignitaries were introduced, Representative Chu presented a certificate of Congressional Recognition to Barbara Messina and Valarie Gomez and the YMCA. Henry Lo, Assemblyman Chau’s senior field representative, presented a similar certificate to Gomez from the state assembly.

Our Leah Chang spoke to Assemblyman Chau and takes us through what happened at the ceremony.


Those interested in supporting the Children’s Center may contact YMCA CEO Valarie Gomez at val.ymca@gmail.org or by phone at 626 660-6881.

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