EL MONTE (CBSLA.com) — The Board of Directors voted to close a Boys and Girls Club in El Monte after a DEA indictment claims the club was a center where potential Mexican Mafia gang members openly held meetings and sold drugs.
Chairs were empty Monday where children, under different circumstances, would have gone to socialize and play — in part to help keep them off the streets.
“It should be filled with kids, it should be filled with kids today,” Executive Director Clay Hollopeter said.
Hollopeter suggests that the indictment holds no weight, and that the closing of the club’s doors may have been politically motivated.
“They thought they had to do something, so by closing the club, they’ve done something,” Hollopeter said. “But what they’ve done, really, is hurt the kids.”
A number of former members of the El Monte Boys and Girls Club came out Monday and told CBS2 that they never saw anything to suggest gang or drug activity there, and agree with Hollopeter that the club’s closing is detrimental to the kids.
“I learned how to be sociable in Boys and Girls Club, get along with next door neighbors, be presentable,” Adam Perez said. “You know why we came here? To play basketball!”
Volunteer Mayra Jimenez, meanwhile, says that she worries about the teenaged boys she now sees on the street, and who used to be in the club.
“Now that they don’t have a place to come, they’re just outside, doing nothing,” Jimenez said.
Police shared a statement on Monday, suggesting the goal is to continue the club’s efforts in the future.
“Although the city does not have formal jurisdiction over the club, we are working closely with the club’s leadership to address the issues raised, and to help guide their future activities.”
Meanwhile, Hollopeter, lacking any real strategy or plan, says he still hopes to reopen the club’s doors, and has an idea of what that will take.
“It’s going to take pressure, I think.”