For 20 years, Rick Friess has served as the pro bono general counsel for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley. He has also served on the organization’s board and as board president for several years.
On Aug. 30, Friess received a Boys & Girls Clubs of America service award and the organization’s president’s award for his board and volunteer work.
Friess’ involvement with the organization began in 1992 amid community concern about gang activity in San Juan Capistrano.
Friess’ father, Ken, a former mayor and City Council member in San Juan, wanted to do something, so he helped organize a steering committee to open a Boys & Girls Club.
Ken asked Rick, a lawyer, to help with the legal aspects of forming the corporation. As a litigator, Rick knew very little about corporate law, but he learned quickly. “I got involved with the initial board and got hooked,” he said.
In a partnership with the city and school district, the newly formed Boys & Girls Club took over the afterschool programs the city had been offering.
It took over a quonset hut the school district used to store old textbooks. Club board members and volunteers raised funds to store the books elsewhere.
“By 1998, we were doing really well,” Rick said, “so we started a capital campaign to build a facility over by San Juan Capistrano’s community center. The city gave us the land on a lease for free.”
The group was careful when naming itself, knowing the club would serve more areas than San Juan Capistrano. The city of Aliso Viejo chipped in and offered space in Iglesia Park, where the club has been operating since 2005. Another center is in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Although the San Juan club was successful, many kids dropped out as they became teenagers. So, “we did another capital campaign and built a teen center,” Rick said. Opened in San Juan Capistrano in 2009, it features a game room, learning center, technology lab, dance studio, music recording studio and weight room.
He credits the club with helping to undermine the gang activity that inspired it.
“I strongly believe that the gang activity has been substantially curtailed by a group of efforts that included law enforcement and the club,” he said.