Cathie Anderson

Philanthropist Fred Teichert relives quest for Boys & Girls Club

Fred Teichert, executive director of the Teichert Foundation, in the game room of Sacramento Boys & Girls Club in 2003. He set up a club at Lemon Hill.
Fred Teichert, executive director of the Teichert Foundation, in the game room of Sacramento Boys & Girls Club in 2003. He set up a club at Lemon Hill. Sacramento Bee file

Philanthropist and civic leader Fred Teichert didn’t know when he began his quest to bring the Boys & Girls Club to Sacramento that the nonprofit organization had been trying since before the Great Depression to open a site in the only state capital and big city where it had no presence.

“They’d been trying to start what was at the time, Boys Club, since 1927,” Teichert said. “I thought we were just the first ones to have this great idea, but that wasn’t true. What was amazing to me was they had picked a site that was maybe less than a mile from the one on Lemon Hill, where the Teichert Branch is.”

Teichert learned that and much more as he did research over five years and educated donors about just what the Boys & Girls Club is. Teichert told me he didn’t learn what the organization’s mission was until 1991, but once he began exploring it, he couldn’t understand why Sacramento didn’t have a club.

It now has two. Teichert, still an unabashed promoter and recruiter for the club, was given a surprise last month at the annual Broke Ball fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Sacramento. The organization told him it was naming a scholarship in his honor: the Fred Teichert Youth of the Year Scholarship. The first honoree, Inderkum High School graduate Kendra Jackson, received $1,000 to help her pay for her schooling at Sacramento State.

At the event, Teichert was treated to a video of club donors and old friends who talked about his years-long commitment to getting a local Boys & Girls Club funded, built and operating. Over coffee, a few weeks after the event, Teichert shared the struggles he faced, the friendships he established or deepened and the discoveries he made as he worked to give local youths a place for after-school enrichment.

As the interview concluded, Teichert said: “I don’t remember ever having told that story (in full) before. I mean, I’ve told parts of it. There is a lot to it.”

In the early 1990s, Teichert was establishing a philanthropic foundation for the company founded by his forebearer, Adolph Teichert Sr. As the founding leader of the Teichert Foundation, he was intrigued at the work that Waymon Logan was doing with latchkey and at-risk children at Dayspring Outreach. Teichert, however, wanted a structured program that he felt would endure beyond the lifetime of its founder.

He called up David Hess, then leader of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, who suggested that he take a look at the Boys & Girls Club. Hess had come to Sacramento from Pasadena, Teichert said, and he had been impressed with the work of the club there. The organization, founded in 1860 in Hartford, Conn., focused on providing alternatives to young boys roaming the streets and sometimes wreaking havoc.

“Our core programming centers around leadership and character development, academic and career development, healthy lifestyles, the arts, sports and fitness,” said Kimberly Key, chief executive of Boys & Girls Club of Sacramento. Locally, it now serves about 4,000 children and teenagers not only in its two branch sites but also in public schools and at the Sacramento County youth detention center.

Teichert, a divorced father of three, said he thinks the Boys & Girls Club resonated with him because he always worried about his daughters’ transition from school to home, and he couldn’t imagine the obstacles faced by other working parents who had to choose between child care and paying essential bills. Teichert said he contacted Logan, and upon meeting with him, he broached the idea of Boys & Girls Club.

“Waymon just lit up. He got so excited,” Teichert said. “He said he grew up in a Boys & Girls Club in Knoxville, and he said everything he learned about helping kids, that’s where he got it. When he was young, everybody went there, and he said it was funny, you couldn’t have a thin skin because you’re dealing with kids who have a lot of challenges in their lives. But you try to teach them basic respect and care for each other and respect for grown-ups.”

Teichert said Logan told him that the worst punishment was being given a time-out at Boys & Girls Club, having to go sit on the steps until an hour had elapsed. The descriptions from Hess and Logan intrigued Teichert and he started making trips to visit clubs and doing more research. He found research showing the positive impact that Boys & Girls Clubs had on children’s attitudes and behavior. He began calling up local politicians, philanthropists and civic leaders and asking them to go along with him to see a Boys & Girls Club in neighboring cities. When he found someone else as passionate as he was, he asked them to join an advisory board.

Very slowly, Teichert said, people began to see how this nonprofit was different from YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and they began to understand why Sacramento needed it. Teichert, you see, was operating in a world before national advertising would feature famous club alumni such as Oscar winner Denzel Washington and entertainer Jennifer Lopez. The clubs have provided a haven and enrichment programs for dozens of other famous individuals: prima ballerina Misty Copeland, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Paul Mitchell Products co-founder John Paul DeJoria among them.

With the advisers he cultivated, Teichert began to try to figure out where clubs should be located around the region: “We had a map of Sacramento County, and one of the things that was really hard in the early ’90s was how to get good demographic information. This was before the internet or any of that. So, how do you know?”

Eventually, he said, The Sacramento Bee and the local FBI office supplied the census, crime and federal aid data that helped nail down six sites. The team decided to start with the location on Lemon Hill, but what Teichert and others had not anticipated was that well-to-do donors weren’t familiar with this area of the city.

“People knew where Oak Park was,” Teichert said. “They knew where Meadowview was, sort of, or Del Paso Heights, but they didn’t really know where Lemon Hill was. It’s funny. I didn’t know where it was either. My cousin was a nurse, and she told me, ‘Well, everyone in the emergency room knows where it is.’ I thought, ‘OK, that’s the right spot.’ 

But while he was working on the Lemon Hill site, then-City Councilwoman Heather Fargo told him she would help him get land in Alkali Flat from the redevelopment agency and $1 million if he would put the Boys & Girls Club there instead. Teichert wanted to stick with a site where he knew a club was needed, he said, but his fellow board members persuaded him to take the deal. Now, he said, he’s glad they did.

That became the site of the Thomas P. Raley Boys & Girls Club in 1998, thanks to a generous donation by Joyce Raley Teel.

Teichert said that Teel has told him that the donation remains one of her most memorable and satisfying gifts. At the grand opening, Teichert said he ran into philanthropist Hardie Setzer, who owned Setzer Forest Products, and he noted that he looked quite miffed. Teichert asked him what was wrong, and Setzer told him, “You didn’t ask me for any money.”

“It turned out that his father had come from New York, and he had told Hardie, ‘Always take care of the Boys Club,’ ” Teichert said, “so Hardie would send like a 100 bucks a year to this Boys Club in New York, and that was what he was doing. But he didn’t even know what the Boys Club was. ... When we built the second club, I went to talk to him, and he gave like half a million dollars for the gym. It was the easiest get.”

The second Boys & Girls Club, which opened in 2004 at 5212 Lemon Hill Ave., bears the Teichert name. The Teichert Foundation donated the lead gift to make it a reality, Teichert said, after he’d made 20 personal appeals and had no takers. One potential donor, Teichert said, asked him: “So, what’s this going to do for my kids?”

“Part of me was thinking, ‘Well, your kids are going to live in a society that is going to either spend money on taking care of people in jail or they’re going to share the burden with people who are also earning money and patronizing your business. We have a choice about this. ... I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t even answer him.”

That comment, Teichert said, made him aware that this is not obvious until you’ve been through it. He had been through divorce and raising kids on his own, he said, and he knew what it felt like to have such challenges as a parent.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee