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De Carson has big plans for Galt Boys and Girls Club

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Posted: Friday, November 11, 2005 10:00 pm

As president, De Carson has taken over the floundering Galt Boys and Girls Club, and he's doing it with a vengeance.

"Watch my budget this year; it will astound you," Carson said, brimming with enthusiasm.

But he won't astound himself. A man with no self-esteem issues, Carson plans to use the same skills to resurrect the Boys and Girls Club that he developed at his highly successful Carson's Coatings business on Industrial Drive at Pringle Avenue. In 15 years, Carson's Coatings increased its sales volume from $78,000 to $7 million.

"You will be shocked 60 days from now what our (club) budget will be," Carson said late last month.

In the past three years, the Boys and Girls Club budget for after-school programs dwindled from $386,000 to $112,000. During that time, the club lost use of the city-owned clubhouse on Caroline Avenue due to toxic mold and resorted to using the much-smaller multipurpose room at nearby Fairsite Elementary School.

Nevertheless, as president of the club's board of directors for this year, Carson has the unwavering self-confidence to bring revenues to $600,000 or $800,000 in 2006. He also has restored what had been strained relations with the city of Galt.

Learning how Lodi does it

The first step Carson took to revamp the Galt Boys and Girls Club was to observe how other successful clubs operate. That meant lunch with Richard Jones, chief professional officer for the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, and a tour of the Lodi operation.

"I had a good lunch with him," said Jones, who had never met Carson before. "His vision is right on the mark."

Jones said he feels a soft spot for the Galt Boys and Girls Club.

"When Galt was first initiated about 15 years ago, I was site director for regional services," Jones said. "It was my initial site to get started, so I feel a kinship to the Galt community."

Carson liked the Lodi operation so much he took two of its top employees with him - Eddie Cotton to become Galt's chief professional officer and Laura Baker as program director. Cotton happens to be Jones' adopted son.

Although Jones lost two of his best people, he is excited for what they can offer Galt.

"They got great leadership in Eddie, and I know they can do it," Jones said. "We will definitely be partners. I want my son to be successful."

One of Cotton's biggest challenges is to find some additional housing for the Galt club's programs.

Carson had planned to aggressively raise money to remodel the old Galt Jaycees building at the southeast corner of Fifth and D streets, which the club bought for $1 a year ago, but Galt city inspectors determined in September that the building needed extensive work - so much that it would be cheaper to tear it down.

The foundation was sinking into the ground, and major support beams have dry rot, Carson said. Instead, plans were quickly drawn for a $1.7 million building that Carson hopes to complete in two or three years. The new building will have a gymnasium, game room, kitchen, learning center, technology lab and a cafe/art area.

In the interim, Carson is negotiating for children and teens to avail themselves of recreation areas. The multipurpose room at Fairsite Elementary isn't enough to entertain young people.

"I'll be making use of other buildings I can't name at this time," he said.

Earlier changes made

Using his business skills, Carson decided in August to determine just why the Galt Boys and Girls Club was floundering, in his opinion. For three weeks, he went to club activities and got to know children there on a first-name basis.

"In three weeks, I had enough notes, went to the board and recommended drastic changes," Carson said. "We're an aggressive board."

Recent changes included:

• Firing Shane McLatchey, who was executive director for four-and-a-half years.

• Moving the club's office to Carson's Coatings.

• Hiring administrative assistant Palma Rowe and two grant writers, Miriam Houghton of Sacramento and Sharon Gillies of Galt. Gil Croley, the resource and fund development director, will oversee grant-writing efforts.

• Forming an unofficial partnership with Lodi Boys and Girls Club.

• Volunteering on a regular basis at club activities.

• Participating in fundraising activities, such as cooking at the Oktoberfest sponsored by the Galt District Chamber of Commerce and selling hot dogs every Tuesday and Wednesday at Galt Market.

City Councilman Tom Malson acknowledged that relations are improving between the city and the Boys and Girls Club.

"One of the big things we're hearing now, specifically from De, is that the club doesn't want the city to give them anything," Malson said.

Instead, Carson is asking the city to be a partner and help where it can in the form of fee waivers, joint use and memorandums of understanding, Malson said.

Growing up in Galt

Born in Chicago, Carson has his roots in Galt, having moved with his family in 1960 ranch on Quiggle Road east of town. He attended the old Galt Elementary School, which was a K-8 campus on the current site of the Galt Plaza shopping center on C Street, and he graduated from Galt High School in 1965.

Carson started his career working as a lather and plasterer for his father, but he had to put his entrepreneurial skills to work 17 years ago. Lean financial times in his father's business limited Carson to working two-and-a-half days a week. He spent the remainder of the week coating foam from his garage on Ayers Lane.

He received $78,000 worth of business his first year - by only working a half-week. The second year, it went up to $156,000. Then he stopped working for his father and worked from his garage full time. That brought revenues up to $370,000.

The entrance to the 53,000-square-foot Carson's Coatings plant has a fancy-looking white column on each side to show what customers can order to give their home more of a flourish.

The fancy columns are made from foam, which are shaped and colored to the customer's specifications with a series of machines.

Products from Carson's Coatings can be found all over Galt, Lodi and beyond. Many of the newer homes in both communities have columns - fluted, spiral, Tuscan, Greek and Mediterranean, among others.

Moldings found around windows on new homes are likely to be from Carson's Coatings. So are the moldings in commercial buildings. That includes the Wal-Mart and Pietro's Restaurant in Lodi, and Wholey Ravioli in Galt.

Carson isn't satisfied with his $7 million budget at Carson's Coatings. He plans to add a building on two-anda-half acres he owns north of his in the next couple of years to expand the business. To the east, he just bought eight acres to manufacture wire, paper, nails and trims.

While Carson isn't bashful about his success and plans to expand Carson's Coatings, he credits his wife, Terry Lee Carson, for keeping him in check.

"God help me if I want to build something without her approval - it won't happen," De Carson said. "She knows what we can afford to do. She is the backbone of the operation."

Not only does she control the purse strings at Carson's Coatings, but Terry Carson also serves on the Boys and Girls Club board with her husband.

Carson said he gained his business skills from the late Bill Spaans. During his early days at Carson's Coatings, De Carson brought his finances to Spaans every month for five years.

"He said, 'Your budget is getting out of control,'" Carson recalls.

A sports fanatic

Carson's office looks more like a sports memorabilia room than a place where he oversees his $7 million business. He has autographed pictures of several professional golfers, baseball great Barry Bonds and a frame with autographed pictures and baseballs of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.

"I'm a Tiger Woods fan and a Barry Bonds fan," Carson said with the same vigor as he tackles his own business and the Boys and Girls Club.

Add football Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana to that list, but his Montana memorabilia is at home.

He's proud of being a descendant of Kit Carson, the legendary 19th-century Civil War hero in the Southwest and fur trapper in California. In fact, Carson says he has an authentic letter that Kit Carson wrote from a clipper ship.

When not wrapped up in his business or the Boys and Girls Club, Carson enjoys karate, fishing and hunting squirrels, prairie dogs, quail and some big game.

"My son shot a buffalo with a 6 mm at 9 years old - one shot," Carson said, beaming with pride.

His son, Kit, now 12, shot the buffalo "three inches behind the ear, where I told him to shoot."

De Carson is also a member of the Galt Sunrise Rotary Club.

Kit is the only child the Carsons had together. Terry Carson has three children from a previous marriage, Julie Nunez, 29, Roy Guira, 27, and Jody Guira, 23. The Carsons have one granddaughter.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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