Currently in Archives. Click here to return to the new CU-CitizenAccess.Org website at any time.

Cash crunch again threatens local Boys and Girls Club

CHAMPAIGN --- For the fourth time this decade, the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club is appealing for community help to keep its doors open.
The club won't be able to offer its popular summer program for children and teens unless it raises about $175,000 by June 1, and another $173,000 by July 1, board President Toney Tomaso said in mid-May.

"We're in a cash crunch," said Executive Director Andre Arrington. "The club could be closing if we do not get more support."

The club sent out mailings May 18 to 3,000 homes and businesses seeking financial help.

It has relied increasingly on fundraising to pay for its operations in recent years, but donations have been "sluggish" the last few months, Arrington said.

Overall income is 9 percent behind projections, or 14 percent if grants and other restricted funds aren't counted, he said. Expenses are also down 13 percent, to about $897,000.

The club's special fundraising events - a Bags Tournament, Bids for Kids auction and the Steak and Burger dinner - made more money than projected this year, a total of $114,000 compared to the $80,000 budgeted. But that only makes up about 13 percent of the club's revenue.

The "Achilles' heel" is the Youth Investment Fund, its primary fundraising effort, which is 55 percent behind target, he said. The fund was created in 2001, but the club began pitching it seriously in late 2008 when it ran into another financial crisis. 

The idea was to move away from temporary grants and labor-intensive special events and find sustained investors to fund the club's ongoing operations. Grants had become more restrictive and targeted at new programs, and some events, such as the Crystal Lake duck race, became too costly or labor intensive to operate.

In 2009, churches and community donors came up with more than $350,000 for the Youth Investment Fund, agreeing to sponsor a child for $558 a year (the cost of the club's operations divided by the number of children served).

This year's goal was about $500,000, but less than half of that has been raised, Arrington said.

The state also owes Don Moyer $15,000 of reimbursements from a $62,000 program grant. The club hasn't received a payment from the state since December, Tomaso said.

The club has a line of credit up to $200,000 from Busey Bank, but "we do not want to borrow any more money. That's a recipe for disaster," Arrington said.

The organization has little wiggle room. There's not enough money to pay the staff unless the community comes through, he said.

The club has faced similar problems before, in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Tomaso said the club relies heavily on community support, including $157,000 from the United Way.

The recession, state budget woes and competition from the Champaign County YMCA's capital-fund drive have made funding scarce, he said. Meanwhile, demand for the club's programs continues to rise, with attendance doubling in the last five or six years.

"People do not understand that the Boys & Girls Club only survives off of benevolent giving. We're not a state-funded agency," Arrington said.

Board members are making plans to secure the club's long-term future, including a sizable endowment, Tomaso said. But for now, they're working to get the word out about the immediate need.

Arrington froze hiring several years ago, though the club won a grant this year for a program director, a job that had gone empty for several years.

Administrators have gone without raises for three years, Tomaso said, and board members funded modest Christmas bonuses out of their own pockets.

To squeeze out more savings, Arrington adjusts insurance coverage every year, participates in a cooperative energy program through the Chamber of Commerce, froze some spending, postponed staff training and limited program hours.

The club has eight full-time staff, three of them funded by grants. It has 15 to 20 part-time staff who run programs for kids ages 5 through 17 offering academic, cultural, recreational and social support.

Average daily attendance in the club's after-school program rose from 121 in 2008 to 137 in 2009. For the summer program, average attendance went from 141 to 167 in that span. The club charges a $5 membership fee per child, plus other fees in the summer.

"The product is there. The parents want our services, more so than ever," Tomaso said. "It's a constant drain on our resources."

Carlean Conklin enrolled her 9-year-old daughter, Madison, in the club's after-school program last December. Her old day care center wasn't working out, and Conklin wanted a positive place where "she could grow a little bit emotionally."

A friend recommended Don Moyer, and "she has loved every minute of it," Conklin said.

Her daughter enjoys the tutoring program, the homework assistance program, the field trips and making new friends.

"She's gotten to go places she never would have gotten to go" otherwise, she said.

Conklin planned to enroll Madison in the summer program, too, until she got a call this week saying to hold off. She's worried other programs might already be full, or she may have missed out on scholarship opportunities.

As a single working mom, every penny counts, and the entire 10-week summer program at Don Moyer costs only $300.

"We've got different options. The problem is trying to find someone you can trust with your child. There's nothing more economical or stable than the Boys & Girls Club."

By Julie Wurth/The News-Gazette

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.