Boys & Girls Club raising funds for June opening

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The Boys & Girls Club will launch a $200,000 capital fund-raising campaign in a couple of weeks, organizers announced at press conference Tuesday.

That's the amount of money organizers say they need to transform the National Guard Armory into a usable space for children in time for the end of the school year when the program is slated to begin serving local youth.

"The way I look at it is -- this is an investment," said Boys & Girls Club Board President Pres Askew. "It's like buying a house. The biggest problem is getting a down payment. We need to put a lot of money into this to demonstrate that we have these needs (for a club)."

Fund-raising may occur on an annual basis or until the program becomes self-sufficient. Even-tually the club could support itself through an endowment program, Askew said. But that might take up to 10 years.

Initial community donations are slated for renovations. Club organizers want to knock down walls to create bigger spaces. They also want to lay a synthetic gymnasium floor over its current concrete base.

Askew felt confident the community would financially support a Boys and Girls Club, partly because the nonprofit group has gathered more than $100,000 in donations before it officially launched its fund-raising effort. Almost half of that total was bequeathed to the club from a memorial donation.

Askew said the initial $100,000 in donations doesn't count toward the $200,000 fund-raising goal.

Community donations send a positive signal to foundations considering whether to offer the club grant money, said Jim Dodd, the group's interim executive director.

"We're expecting a lot of in-kind grants," he said.

For example, Dodd said they could obtain a $20,000 grant to set up a computer lab. Those and other funds for specific projects are available through the national Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The initial idea for a local club came when Askew heard that the U.S. Justice Department announced it was making $80 million available, this year and last year, for thousands of startup Boys and Girls Clubs.

But those funds only amount to $40,000 when spread out over the 3,000 clubs opening across the nation over two years, Askew said.

Asking the community for financial support is more palatable than asking residents to fund a recreation center, Askew said. That idea was largely unpopular with voters recently when they overwhelming defeated the $12 million project. It would have increased taxes for city residents.

"No one wants to have an obligation to fund something," Askew said. "It's the psychology of a long-term tax that people were opposed to."

Indeed, resident Helen Chamberland, who lives on a fixed-income, voted no on the November measure.

She'd support the Boys and Girls Club if she could afford it. But Chamberland already feels hit up for a variety of causes.

"Every time you turn around, someone is wanting money for something," she said. "When you're retired you can't afford it."

Boys and Girls Club organizers say they don't need to collect money from everyone to make a go of the afterschool program.

The group estimates programming costs of $30 a year for a family membership. They anticipate further costs to support four full-time employees and four part-time positions.

Club organizers also want to offer scholarships for children whose families can't afford for them to enter the program.

"We don't need 100 percent of the people to write us a check, just 30 percent," Askew said. "If other small towns can support a Boys and Girls Club, why can't Craig?"

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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