Restaurant group makes gift in support of recreational tennis programs at Earlham College

Jesus Melendez, pictured left, is the owner of the El Rodeo and El Bronco restaurant group. He is pictured with his daughter, Jessica, and his son, Omarr.
Jesus Melendez, pictured left, is the owner of the El Rodeo and El Bronco restaurant group. He is pictured with his daughter, Jessica, and his son, Omarr.

The popular El Bronco and El Rodeo restaurant group in Richmond has made a three-year gift commitment in support of Earlham College’s recreational tennis programs.

The gift will support renovations to the College’s recreational tennis courts and establish an official home for the Amigos youth tennis program. Amigos is the preeminent non-profit organization in support of Richmond’s Latino community.

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

“The Earlham community also benefits,” she said. “Many of our community members are avid tennis players and enjoy giving back to the community as volunteer coaches and mentors.”

The Amigos tennis program was established in 2014 with a grant by the United States Tennis Association and is free for children 5-16 years old inWayne County. The program started with a summer camp that served about 25 children and now offers year-round programming for beginning and advanced players. More than 100 children participate in the program annually and people of all ages contribute to its success.

“The El Bronco and El Rodeo family of restaurants is delighted to contribute to the growth of the Amigos tennis program,” said Jesus Melendez, the owner and founder of the El Bronco and El Rodeo restaurant group. “We’re especially pleased to support wellness programs at Earlham College. The campus community has supported our business from the very beginning and helped us become a popular food and dining destination that has now expanded to three locations in Richmond.”

The Amigos tennis program began in 2014 and serves more than 100 children.

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. “Unlike other sports, tennis is truly a life-long endeavor that brings families and communities together.

“I’m 71 years old and still playing,” he said. “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.”

Hambrick and Howard Lamson, a senior adviser for Amigos, were recently recognized by the USTA with the 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.

“The community support from Earlham and now El Bronco and El Rodeo has been incredible,” he said. “The Amigos tennis players love playing in the beautiful facilities at Earlham and this new commitment helps us ensure this opportunity will be available to them for the near future.”

The El Bronco and El Rodeo 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.

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