The Westchester Townhouse has helped generations of kids, but now it needs some love
By Bonnie Eslinger
The Westchester Townhouse is an unassuming brick building that since 1945 has been dedicated to a noble vision: nurture the community’s children by providing them a place to gather, learn, play and grow.
The multipurpose facility adjacent to Kentwood Elementary School has little more inside than a small stage, a piano, some chairs and tables. Hand-painted murals of California landscapes decorate the walls.
Oh, but what memories it holds. Decades of family-friendly activities, dances, youth organization meetings, fundraisers and holiday celebrations.
Jaymes Bellous, the volunteer board chair for the nonprofit that oversees use of the building, fondly recalls times spent at the Townhouse some 20 years ago with his two kids.
“My son was a scout, and the Pinewood Derby was held there. It was a big event for this town,” Bellous said. “At Halloween there were costume parties and we turned it into a haunted house. Thousands of kids have gone through this community building in the last 72 years.”
The youth-focused organizations that use the Westchester Townhouse are not charged, so money for building maintenance and upgrades is dependent on the generosity of the local community at large. A few years ago, the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation funded a new roof, heating and air conditioning system, insulation, fence and a gate.
“They’re just a terrific family charitable foundation that does a lot for our community,” Bellous said.
But there are still significant repairs that need to be done, he added, including replacing the facility’s worn-out floors and original wooden doors. The asphalt in front of the building also needs to be resealed. And, as always, funds are needed for such ongoing expenses as insurance, a cleaning service and a gardener.
To finance the building maintenance work, the Westchester Townhouse board is hoping to raise $35,000. The organization is currently running a fundraising campaign that will culminate in an April 14 community festival with an inflatable bounce house, family entertainment, a raffle, food and presentations by the organizations currently using the facility — which include Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and a local family theater group called Music West.
“The building’s sole purpose is to serve the youth of our community,” Bellous said. “Instead of having a meeting in the living room of your house or your garage, you have a facility you can go to that’s offered at no cost.”
Anne-Marie Ross moved to the community about three years ago and discovered the Westchester Townhouse after she volunteered to be a Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s troop and was looking for a place for their gatherings.
“When I walked in the doors I was immediately struck by charm and history of the place,” Ross said. “It’s got these hand-drawn murals all around the walls. It’s very warm and inviting.”
As part of its fundraising effort, the Westchester Townhouse is offering various forms of recognition and marketing opportunities to contributors, such as inclusion in social media promotions, banner signage on the facility’s front fence and a name etched on a plaque inside the building.
All levels of support are welcome — and vital to the community hub’s continued use, Ross said.
“The townhouse has offered itself as a venue for meetings and activities,” she said. “Now it’s in need of the community giving back and supporting it in order to ensure the next 70 years.”
The “Fun-Raising” Festival happens from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at the Westchester Townhouse, 8501 Emerson Ave., Westchester. Connect with organizers at facebook.com/WestchesterTownhouseLA.