After thieves broke in to the Whatsoever Community Center over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, stealing thousands of dollars in equipment,
staff at the center were sent reeling by the thought of someone actually stealing from an agency that has given back to the community for almost 100 years.
“This is their place,” Whatsoever Director Charlie Garish said. “When some idiot comes in and does what they did, it takes away from them. This is their sanctuary.”
Generations of Northeast youth have taken advantage of after school programs at Whatsoever, and a number of local Golden Gloves boxing champions were trained at the center that overlooks Sheffield Park and the Blue River Valley.
One of those champions was Jose Saenz, who grew up in the community and went on to be a highly ranked pro boxer in the Lightweight Division.
“I began coming to Whatsoever when I was eight years old and what I learned here helped me to become the young man I am today,” Saenz said.
Saenz attended Rockhurst University on a scholarship and is currently a CPA for Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
In 2008, Saenz was rated the top Boxer in and out of the ring at the National Golden Gloves competition, and rated 4th in the world in 2010. An injury during a fight in Mexico City in 2010 spelled an end to Saenz’ Olympic hopes, however, but he still credits Whatsoever with his success today.
“None of that would have been possible without what I learned here at Whatsoever,” Saenz said.
According to Gasich, thieves broke through a back door and made off with 50 sets of training gloves and headsets, shoes and other equipment used daily in their gymnasium.
In order to lessen the financial blow, a GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds to replace some of the stolen equipment. That GoFundMe page
link is: https://gf.me/u/zashdz.
When local McDonald’s Franchisee Lisa Essig learned of the theft, their organization stepped up and presented a $5,000 dollar check to Whatsoever Community Center Activities Director Eddie Guillen on Thursday, Dec. 10.
“As soon as I saw the story, it immediately resonated with me,” Essig said. “Kids are so critical to every community, they’re the future of every community. We love the Northeast, there’s such a great sense of community here and we’re just thrilled to be able to help out.”
Sheffield Neighborhood President Mark Morales shared that to him, and many in Sheffield, community is family. Morales’ father Jerry was a noted Golden Gloves boxer at Whatsoever back in the 1950’s.
“After a boxing match here in the 50’s, my dad proposed to my mom right out here on these steps,” Morales said. “This place is almost sacred ground for me.”
Jerry Morales and his wife recently celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary and still reside about four blocks away from Whatsoever Community Center.