The Boys and Girls Club Struggling to Keep Doors Open

The Boys and Girls Club of the Big Bend is struggling to make ends meet because of the poor economy. The organization was recently told that it had one month to close or face severe cutbacks.

Samuel “Buddy” Streit, president and CEO, chose the latter. “There’s not enough to keep up with expense,” Streit explained to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Parents were told to search for other means of after-school care through a letter sent home with their children.

“Many parents were disappointed with finding out at such a late notice, but they were very supportive and willing to donate to sustain the future of the club,” said Kacy Dennis, club director for the past seven years.

Johnitta Richards, whose child has been attending since November 2009, was one of those parents.

“I was extremely disappointed in the timing because I was given one weeks’ notice,” Richards said.

Luckily, the club received donations after its financial problems went public and parents complained that after-school care would be difficult to find on such short notice.

Several companies, local governments and others donated to keep the Boys and Girls Club functioning.

Tavares Hampton, 25, Florida A&M graduate student and Boys and Girls Club senior staff member, said, “The funds were mysteriously given and no name has been released.”

Parents were told that, “The month long furlough that would have been cancelled,” and that regular scheduled operation would start March 8.

“Now, I am ecstatic because it would be hard to find someone to watch my child,” said Richards.

However, in order to sustain and sustain operations significant sacrifices had to be made.

“We will have to increase member fees next school year (August). We are constantly researching grants we can possibly apply to and fundraisers (will be conducted),” said Dennis.

The parents and children won’t be the only ones affected.

“We have cut staff. We laid-off five. We are in (desperate) need of volunteers” said Dennis.

Staff members like Hampton are struggling to deal with this change.

“It’s a change and not easy switching from bi-weekly to monthly,” said Dennis. However, he said he is driven by more than payment. “I have been working for the Boys and Girls Club for five years. It’s more about the kids and not the finances for me.”

Despite the obstacles it continues to face, its employees are confident that the organization will remain a fixture in the community.

“I don’t think this Boys and Girls Club will ever close because there is always someone willing to help kids out,” Hampton said.

Though companies and parents have been giving, fundraisers will still be implemented this summer and throughout the year to increase revenue.

“We will have car washes; we plan to do an Applebee’s breakfast; and we have wrote letters to Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Costco,” said Dennis.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Kacy Dennis at (850) 656-8100.