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Funding loss could force closure of some Northeast Ohio Boys & Girls Clubs

Organization appealing to community to bridge $3 million gap
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Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 12, 2024

The Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio is bracing to lose $3 million in funding. It could force the organization to scale back services or shut down facilities if new money sources don’t bridge the gap.

WHAT IS THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB?

The Northeast Ohio chapter of the Boys and Girls Club offers activities, excursions and academic support to children ages 6-18 year-round.

This week, summer programming kicked off the organization’s 50 clubs throughout six Northeast Ohio counties.

“I like how it gives me excitement. And it gives me something to do so I won’t be sitting at home bored. They provide lunch. It gives me a fun experience,” said Javaya Williams.

The 15-year-old has been spending evenings and summers at a club in Southeastern Cleveland since she was 7. This summer, she’ll also receive a paycheck for helping supervise younger children.

“I feel like it’s a great experience for you to just come here, play or work here and meet new people, explore and things of that nature,” she said.

Summertime programming includes games and sports, in addition to activities that promote learning.

“They help me a lot, too, with work that I need to do,” said Journey Suddeth, 13, who’s been a Boys and Girls Club member since age 6.

With more than 9,8000 members, the Northeast Ohio chapter is one of the largest Boys and Girls Club chapters in the Midwest. It’s the result of a 2019 merger between Cleveland, Akron, Lorain County and Sandusky clubs.

Parents told News 5 that the free childcare and role models provided by the Boys and Girls Club are invaluable.

“I don’t think the world puts that in the [equation] that we need to go to work and then our children have to have somewhere to go and learn. So I think this is most needed,” said Lamara James, whose 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son are beginning their first summer with the organization.

WHY IS THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB LOSING FUNDING?

Late this spring, the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio faced a clearer picture of its financial future.

“We’re in this position, not because of any fiscal mismanagement or any nefarious things that have happened,” said CEO Allen Smith. “We’re here because, unfortunately, funding changed. We had no control over it.”

Smith explained the organization was expecting the end of pandemic-era programs, but it did not anticipate a large swath of federal funding to disappear.

Statewide, the Boys and Girls Club Alliance will lose $7.5 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars. Northeast Ohio’s chapter will lose about $2.5 million in TANF funding.

“When you don’t have those dollars, that means you have to supplement them with something else from general operating or other new sources of funding, which right now we don’t have,” Smith explained.

Another piece of funding for the Clubs comes from local school districts. Some districts facing a similar loss in money are cutting after-school activities while they try to balance their budgets.

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Altogether, the organization stands to lose more than $3 million.

“We’re all kind of scrambling, trying to figure out how to keep our programs running,” Smith said.

WHAT’S DOES THE LOSS IN FUNDING MEAN?

Without new funding, the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio is weighing the services it may need to cut and the clubs it could be forced to close.

“Unfortunately for us, what this means is we have to cut back on the number of clubs that we have open, we’ve had to cut back on staffing, not just in our clubs but in our administrative offices as well,” Smith said.

He explained the organization is still determining where to make cuts, but he anticipates Lorain and Cuyahoga Counties could feel the largest impact.

“It’s a great loss because I think parents rely on us,” the CEO said.

He expects many of the decisions to be finalized by the end of June.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

An independent national survey of Boys and Girls Clubs found children in the programs had increased graduation rates, improved academic scores, were more involved in community service and were less likely to engage in risky behaviors like carrying weapons or using drugs or alcohol.

“We know the hours that young people are most likely to have challenges are that 3-6 p.m. time period,” said Smith. “When they’re engaged in the Boys and Girls Club, they’re in a safe place with role models.”

The CEO said he knows firsthand the impact of caring adults and a safe place to grow. He received his first-ever paycheck as a Boys and Girls Club staff member and played his first organized sports as a child at a club in Toledo.

“I would not probably be here independent of having that experience,” he said. “And really that experience started before the first job. It started as a 7-year-old in the Boys and Girls Club and my exposure to things.”

Parents also told News 5 the organization helps steer their children in a positive direction.

“When kids don’t have things to do, they do bad things. I know my kids. They need to be busy, they have to keep going. And when you have standing kids, they don’t grow. And then they become those types of adults. So I think all communities need this,” said James.

HOW’S BGCNEO BRIDGING THE FUNDING GAP?

To lessen the impact of the funding shortage, the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio is appealing to the community. It’s launching a corporate campaign and seeking additional local and state government support to close the funding gap before the 2024-2025 school year starts.

The efforts will recruit new supporters and implore current donors to increase their contributions.

“I would just say thank you to Northeast Ohio for what you’ve done and we’re looking forward to what you might still do for us. And when I say ‘us’ I mean our young people,” Smith said.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

If you’d like to support BGCNEO, you can make a financial contribution by clicking on this link.

You can also mail a physical check made payable to Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio to PO Box 72090 OPC833, 295 Huntington Circle, Akron, OH 44307.

On June 22, BGCNEO is hosting a 5K and one mile Race for Kids at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Tickets are available for $10-$30. You can find more information by clicking here.

On June 24, the Taco Bell Charity Golf Classic is fundraising for BGCNEO. Teams can find registration information by clicking here.

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