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Resident to Resident Interview

UV RESIDENT HEADS BUILDING OF 10 BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS

By Carol Keochekian

Cal Johnston had joined the Air Force after completing ROTC at USC hoping to become a pilot. But that desire literally crashed because he was partially colorblind. He served as a lieutenant and a special service officer at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

It was at Edwards where Johnston met met his future wife Marjel, a teacher and Red Cross instructor. Her parents were in charge of civilian housing at the base. Johnston and Marjel were married in 1957 and are now celebrating their 62nd year of marriage. They have two children, Jeff Johnston and Jan Mathews and six grandchildren.

After developing the community of North Edwards, Johnston relocated to West Los Angeles and started developing office parks, apartments, mobile home projects and planned communities.

The Johnston Group, with projects mostly in California (plus Six Flags amusement parks in Texas and Georgia), continued to grow to 70 employees in Westwood and for 15 years in Century City. After selling many of its properties, Johnston moved the company to the Conejo Valley where his son, Jeff, now heads up the business. The Johnston Group now has 10 office parks in Calabasas, Westlake, Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

In addition to his business activities, Cal agreed to serve on the National Board of Trustees of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in which he is now a lifetime member. It was a natural step for him. His concern for children took root at the Masonic Home for Children, where he had been raised since the age of six following the death of his parents.

His trustee position made Johnston and his wife, Marjel, acutely aware that there were no Boys and Girls Clubs in the Greater Conejo Valley area. There was a big need for them. The Boys and Girls clubs provide important before and after school programs. Because of the high cost of real estate in the area, Johnston came up with the concept of building the Boys and Girls Clubs on school grounds under long term land leases at a $1 a year per school.

The concept has been successful! The first of 10 Boys and Girls Clubs was built at Los Cerritos Middle School in Thousand Oaks in the year 2003. Most the money was raised locally under the leadership of Johnston and a team of 25 plus board members.

More than 4,300 students in the Conejo Valley and Las Virgenes school districts are now active members of the 10 clubs. The local buildings are open before and after school from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. When the Boys and Girls Clubs are not in session, the buildings may be used by the host schools for special programs. Volunteering at the clubs is enjoyed by many caring adults. The closest club to UV is situated at Redwood Middle School, located on Gainsborough Road a few blocks east of Lynn Road.

While Johnston continues his efforts with the Boys and Girls Club, he is now also working with his UV next-door neighbor Steve Dorfman to expand the relationship between Cal Lutheran and University Village.