Boys & Girls Clubs suffer in tough economy

July 8, 2009 3:01:43 PM PDT
The difficult economy has taken a toll on many charitable organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.But there's a ray of hope on the city's South Side as a new club opens for the children in the Roseland-Pullman neighborhood.

The Boys and Girls Clubs have had a presence in Chicago for about 100 years and cite studies that show kids who are members are less likely to get into trouble.

The club itself is facing some financial trouble. The tough economy has meant the loss of a big grant. But a partnership with a new South Side church is enabling the organization to continue to serve the community.

Kids have welcomed the Roseland-Pullman community's newest neighbor with open arms. It's a branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, which is housed in Salem Baptist Church and the House of Hope Center. Already, 200 young people are members.

"Here we not only have fun all the time. We are taught respect and responsibility for each other," said Denzel Talison, club member.

It's the first new club to open in 13 years and it serves a community in need of options to keep kids off the streets.

"We need at this time for adults, for people of good will to stand up and step forward to try to have creative activities for our young people," said Rev. James Meeks, Salem Baptist Church.

The ribbon cutting ceremony is a bright spot for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago which has been looking for ways to maintain its services, despite losing money in the tough economy.

Corporate and individual donations are down. But the biggest challenge to the organization is the loss of $1.2 million from a state funded program, which has been cut out of the state budget.

"We've made difficult decisions that are pointed at making sure the footprint of Boys and Girls Clubs remains stable," said Harry VandeVelde, Boys And Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Those decisions include laying off 40 staff members and phasing out two clubs that were located in Chicago Public School buildings. But the organizations is resolved to putting all its resources into its 15 citywide locations and maintain a presence in neighborhoods where kids need positive interaction.

"Boys and Girls Clubs operate on a real strong formula; great programs with great people equal great outcome," said VandeVelde.

The Roseland-Pullman club hopes to recruit more than 400 members in the next two years and to raise enough money to become a permanent fixture in the community.

For more information on the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, please visit www.bgcc.org.


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