History of Nipomo Area Recreation Association
In 1978 a small group of Nipomo residents responded to an invitation from the Santa Maria Elks to sponsor a candidate from the Nipomo area for their annual Elks Rodeo Queen Campaign. Up until 1976, the Nipomo Men’s Club had been sponsoring the queen candidate from the community. That first year in 1978, Nipomo raised over $18,000 dollars for the queen campaign placing 2nd out of 7. The Elks then returned over $11,000 to Nipomo, of which $9,500 was distributed to local youth groups.
After that first year, the members felt it would be beneficial to incorporate. The non-profit charitable organization, Nipomo Area Recreation Association, was then formed. The regulations for an organization classified as Nonprofit Charitable prohibited receiving money from organizations classified as Nonprofit Civic. Since the Elks were Nonprofit Civic, a second non-profit organization with the Civic classification was formed, Nipomo Youth Recreation, to participate in the fundraising efforts for the Elks Rodeo Queen Campaign.
Subsequent queen campaign amounts ranged from 1st place in 1980 with over $54,000 dollars and another 2nd place finish in 1985 with $101,000 dollars. As the amount of money increased each year, the organization felt a portion of the funds should be set aside for a major community project. This was supported by a written pole of the community which showed strong support for a community youth facility. Lump sums of money were donated annually to Nipomo Area Recreation Association in anticipation of this future project.
In 1985 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Education was approached by members of the Nipomo community with a request for property which was centrally located in the Nipomo area for the purpose of building a youth recreation facility. The Board of Education responded with a promise of a lease of the property located on Frontage Road. This property was, at one time, the site of a migrant school and the school board felt that the proposed use of this property was in accordance with their goals of benefiting the youth of the community.
A community meeting was held in March 1988 which produced a strong support for the proposed project. With approximately $200,000 in the bank, plans were set into motion. The lease was signed, blueprints were drawn, permits were obtained, contractors hired, significant labor and material were donated by members of the community and, by the end of June of 1988 construction had begun on the Nipomo Recreation Center. Building the Nipomo Recreation Center was a grassroots, community effort. In addition to Nipomo Youth Recreation’s fundraising efforts, the Nipomo Men’s Club was also instrumental in the completion of the center.
In 1989 Nipomo Area Recreation Association undertook the long process of obtaining a bingo license and began holding bingo every Wednesday night. The funds from Wednesday Night Bingo went towards supporting the operations of the facility. Wednesday Night Bingo continued to be successful until the completion of the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez.
In subsequent years the facility was used for a multitude of events and programs which brought members of the community together for various functions. Nipomo Youth Recreation continued to raise money for the Elks Rodeo Queen campaign until the year 2000. In 2003 Nipomo Youth Recreation disbanded due to lack of support from the community. The remaining funds of approximately $15,000 were donated to Nipomo High School to be used for the purpose of a perpetual scholarship.
Our programs today include our Before and After School Care at Dana Elementary, Dorothea Lange Elementary and Nipomo Elementary Schools, which provides care for children in kindergarten through 6th grades in a safe environment for recreation, education and enrichment classes. Our Before School Care program is a fee based program which is available to students from 7am until kids are allowed at each campus at 8:45. The After School/Bright Futures program is free due to a grant which Lucia Mar Unified School District received. We currently serve over 500 kids at all of the school sites with our Before and After School Care programs.
Our Kids Camps focuses on recreation, education, and enrichment opportunities as well. Summer Kids Camp is a 10 week program which also focuses on recreation, education and enrichment opportunities.
Our Nipomo Youth Basketball League is getting ready for another successful season. This is a great opportunity for kids from 1st thru 9th grades to play on a team and learn the fundamentals of playing basketball. One of the challenges we face is our dependence on Lucia Mar and the local school facilities – especially the gyms at Mesa Middle School and Nipomo High School. In the days when we had the Recreation Center we had games running Monday through Saturday, and we didn’t have the scheduling conflicts that we run into today. During the 2007-2008 season the 5 Cities Youth Basketball League welcomed 3rd through 9th grade divisions into their league. This collaboration was a positive change to our program which has been a constant in our community for almost 20 years.
Last but not least is our Little Bits Preschool program, which provides licensed preschool year round for children ages 2 to 6 years old. We currently serve 45 toddlers in the Nipomo area. Our maximum occupancy is 30 kids at any one time.
What does the future hold for Nipomo Area Recreation Association? Nipomo Area Recreation Association – in partnership with others such as our local schools, churches and businesses – can rise to the challenge of providing services to increase our community’s health and stability. By providing the space to learn & play, space to be safe & secure and space to create & imagine, we can strive to meet the following goals:
To Increase Cultural Unity
To Strengthen our communities image and sense of place
To Promote health and wellness
To Facilitate community problem solving, and finally,
To Provide Recreational experiences.
Today families are going South to Santa Maria or North to the 5 Cities and beyond to meet their recreational needs. Local athletic clubs face the same challenges as we do trying to secure field space and gym time.
Our primary goal of the future is to build a community facility that will serve the residents of Nipomo and the entire South County. Our goal is to meet and exceed the needs of the community well into the future by providing teens, seniors, and the entire family with recreational resources and services. A peek into the future might enable you to view the new facility’s multi-purpose gymnasium, teen and senior centers, infant-toddler preschool, computer rooms, meeting and conference rooms, and areas both indoors and outdoors for group and family functions.
The Community of Nipomo, needs to now, more than ever, come together to bring a new Recreation/Community Center to this wonderful place we call home.