Jesus Melendez, left, owner of El Bronco and El Rodeo eateries in Richmond, and his daughter, Jessica, and son, Omarr. The restaurant group has made a three-year financial gift to support recreational tennis. Supplied

Amigos’ program for 100+ youth now has official home

A youth tennis program now will have an official home on renovated courts, thanks to local restauranteurs.

The El Bronco and El Rodeo restaurant group in Richmond has made a three-year financial commitment to support Earlham College’s recreational tennis programs. Earlham officials call the donation “a major gift.”

Funds will provide renovations to Earlham’s recreational tennis courts and establish an official home for Amigos’ tennis program for ages 5 to 16.

Amigos is a Richmond-based nonprofit organization that supports Wayne County’s Latino population. Its tennis program began in 2014 as a summer camp for about 25 kids through a grant from U.S. Tennis Association.

Amigos now offers year-round programming for beginning and advanced players. More than 100 children participate annually.

“Earlham and Amigos have been working together for decades to support Richmond’s Latino community,” Earlham President Anne Houtman said in a news release. “This wonderful gift will strengthen that partnership and establish a free place for local youth to learn, grow and play.”

Houtman said many Earlham community members enjoy volunteering as coaches and mentors.

Gene Hambrick

Gene Hambrick, Earlham’s senior executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity, helped jumpstart the Amigos tennis program. He modeled it after programs he facilitated for underserved communities in Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

“This partnership between Earlham, Amigos and the El Bronco and El Rodeo restaurant group is a win-win-win,” Hambrick said in the release. “Unlike other sports, tennis is truly a life-long endeavor that brings families and communities together.

“I’m 71 years old and still playing,” Hambrick continued. “It keeps me in shape. I’m delighted to see this taking off in our community and look forward to watching it continue to prosper.”

Jesus Melendez, owner and founder of the El Bronco and El Rodeo restaurant group, noted delight in the opportunity to contribute to the growth of Amigos’ tennis and support Earlham’s wellness programs.

El Rodeo’s first location was on Richmond’s west side, and Melendez said that “the campus community has supported our business from the very beginning.”

The restaurant group is the second donor in two years to pledge a leadership gift in support of Earlham’s tennis programs.

A gift from Earlham graduate Randy Sadler and his wife, Melissa, sparked a return of men’s and women’s NCAA Division III tennis on campus during the 2022-23 academic year. The Sadler gift also supports tennis as a recreational sport on campus.

Volunteer award at a glance

Howard Lamson

Gene Hambrick, Earlham College’s senior executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity who helped found Amigos’ youth tennis program, and Howard Lamson, a senior adviser for Amigos, recently received the U.S. Tennis Association’s Brad Holmes Award. The award is given to a volunteer within the Central Indiana Tennis District who continually strives to promote youth tennis, primarily at the local level.

“We can’t thank Gene and the USTA enough for helping us launch this special initiative in our community,” Lamson said. “The USTA has been instrumental in helping us train coaches and organizing special events for youth that promote learning, cooperation and respect across cultures.”


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