The Guitars Not Guns Monterey County Chapter, an award-winning nonprofit organization that serves more than 200 at-risk youths throughout Monterey County and is supported by tax-deductible donations, has expanded into San Benito County to offer free guitars and lessons to at-risk youth in Hollister starting Saturday, July 22, upstairs at the Veterans Memorial Building. Enrollment for the program is now closed.
Nineteen youths, ages 8 to 16 years old, are enrolled in the program. Sixteen guitars, gear bags and additional music books have been purchased by the Monterey County Chapter for students who need the instruments in San Benito County. If the students complete the eight-week guitar class, they will get to keep the guitars at no charge.
Guitars Not Guns is a national nonprofit with chapters throughout the United States. The program relies on volunteers and donations of funds and free public spaces such as Vets Hall, public libraries and public school classrooms to make the program a low cost or free, low-overhead program available to children.
San Benito County Supervisors Jaime De La Cruz and Mark Medina, along with the Community Foundation for San Benito County have provided seed funding to establish the program for local youths.
In addition, Hollister City Councilman Ray Friend – who is also a member of the American Legion Post #069 – helped secure classroom space upstairs at the Veterans Memorial Building where the free, 45-minute classes will be taught by vetted and approved guitar instructors subject to background checks.
It is envisioned that the free program will be expanded throughout San Benito County in the near future. County librarian Nora Conte has expressed an interest in having the program offered through the library. There have also been discussions to start a program with community members in San Juan Bautista, perhaps as soon as October.
At the end of the eight-week guitar class, students who complete the program will be treated to a graduation ceremony, awarded the free guitar, be issued a certificate of completion, receive a free a Guitars Not Guns T-shirt and a pizza party. And they will be encouraged to continue taking additional classes to advance their guitar-playing skills.
Community members interested in supporting the expansion of the program in San Benito County may make tax-deductible donations to the Community Foundation for San Benito County, naming Guitars Not Guns as the beneficiary of donated funds.
For more information about the program, email Michael Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org.