In 1947 a group of young San Francisco professionals, who were to become known as The Guardsmen, joined together to help disadvantaged children in the Bay Area.
These young men recognized that they were among the most fortunate members of society, who had good careers, loving families, and many opportunities – past, present, and future. They decided they had a responsibility to “give back” in the interest of individual kids, and society at large.
They were concerned that though at-risk youth were provided basic necessities and help by existing civic and community agencies, many kids had no opportunity to experience life outside the confines of an often harsh inner-city environment.
Beyond this desire to give back, these founding members of The Guardsmen also enjoyed the camaraderie that came from working together. The Guardsmen recognized that they could combine fun, fellowship and fundraising/philanthropy. To this end, The Guardsmen began sponsoring fundraising events—dinners, raffles, a Christmas Tree lot—in order to raise money for local children’s charities and programs. Membership in The Guardsmen was established entirely through word-of-mouth, and the organization quickly became a network of talented young individuals committed to building stronger communities. Over time, national, state, and civic leaders began to formally recognize The Guardsmen’s efforts and their vision and impact in providing enhanced opportunities for youth.
During a strategic review on the 50th anniversary of the organization in 1998, The Guardsmen identified a need for improved educational choices for at-risk youth—many of whom were lost in an unresponsive and dysfunctional educational system that only reinforced cycles of poverty and violence. With this knowledge, The Guardsmen Scholarship Program was created to provide partial private-school tuition scholarships for at-risk children, in order to give them access to the high-quality resources and personalized attention that have proven again and again to help disadvantaged kids succeed.
The Guardsmen also recognize the need for flexible, high-impact support of youth programs that might otherwise be compromised. For example, when the Salvation Army’s Tenderloin Community Center in San Francisco was under construction in 2007 and their crucial after-school programs were at risk, The Guardsmen stepped in to help fund a temporary space. More recently, when Seven Tepee’s lost its access to Hidden Villa’s summer retreat for their older teens, The Guardsmen funded a four-day outdoor retreat that filled the unexpected and potentially disappointing void. With more than 60 years of service to Bay Area youth, and more than 60 years of friendship and camaraderie as an all-volunteer,organization, The Guardsmen will continue to build on its heritage, ever-mindful of the changing and expanding needs of at-risk youth, and their importance to our future.