When Greg Dolan was an adolescent growing up in Dublin, Ireland his local youth club was a safe place to relax and hang out with peers. In fact, Dolan said having a youth club to play pool or just have a positive place to talk was something that was, “always part of his life”. Now an adult with three children of his own, Dolan created the Hollister Youth Club, which opened Friday, Dec. 15, as a way to give to the youth in San Benito County what he himself treasured growing up. “This is what the kids want. This is what the kids need,” Dolan told BenitoLink. This showed at Friday night’s grand opening which included roughly 40 local teenagers who all had the opportunity to play board games, basketball, foosball, massive jenga, ping- pong, or just sit outside around a fire pit to roast s’mores with friends.
Dolan, who also coaches the U-17 Hollister Strikers Boys Soccer Team, got inspiration to start this event while hearing his sons and players talk of having “nothing to do” in Hollister. Remembering his own experience and wanting kids to have healthy alternatives to stay out of trouble, Dolan reached out on Facebook to see if there were any local venues to host a weekly youth club for teenagers in the community. Dolan soon heard back from his friend Glen Pacheco who pitched the idea of asking the local Presbyterian Church, located at 2066 San Benito St/Cienega Rd, if they could use their space. Though he was unsure about asking at first, the church was very supportive and offered the space free of charge in order to support Nolan’s mission and with no pressure to join or be part of any organization. Next thing you know, Safeway donated waters for the kids at the event. The day this reporter was visited the site, local adults dropped off games and food. Dolan said the club will be run through adult volunteers. Dolan is currently working with the church to set up a mandated background check and finger printing for all volunteers in order to preserve the safety of the teenagers attending the Youth Club.
Joanna Loughran, who had two daughters and volunteered as a chaperone, said she became involved to support her daughters and local youth. As a parent Loughran said that it was reassuring to have a “good place for them (her kids) to get out of their shell,” while having adult supervision. She said,“Electronics are taking over our world,” and as a result it is important to have, “a place to hang out like kids did years ago,” through face to face interaction.
The opening night event is just the beginning of Dolan’s vision. After the holidays, Dolan hopes to create a reoccurring Friday night youth club for all local high school age students in January. He is also looking into opening up a second weekday so youth can come directly from school to the youth club to hang out or receive help with schoolwork. Dolan came up with the idea after surveying students and hearing they wanted to add an extra day and a tutorial session. Tutorial sessions would run roughly from 3:30-6:00 p.m. with student volunteers.
For Dolan, the most important aspect of his project is providing a safe environment for teenagers and avoiding trouble without feeling pressure to join any group or organization. Dolan also said for parents it is a place they can feel confident knowing there is adult supervision and their children can enjoy the more simple things in life like roasting a marshmallow over a fire pit or playing a board game on a Friday night.