Boys & Girls club seeks funds

Published 11:59 am Saturday, October 11, 2008

FRANKLIN — The Boys & Girls Club of Franklin needs to earn $50,000 by the end of the year to keep operating, and board members are asking for donations of both money and time.

“We need community support, both monetarily and with board member participation,” said Mayor Jim Councill.

For its first five years of operation, the club received most of its funding through local donations and a time-restricted grant.

Ellis Crum, president of the club’s board of directors, said the grant — called a 21st Century grant — came from a partnership between Franklin City Schools and the Virginia Department of Education.

But those grant funds have run out, Crum and Councill said.

“No one paid serious attention that the five years was going to run out,” Councill said. “Well, they ran out.”

Crum added that the club “didn’t qualify for renewal.” He declined to say why the club didn’t qualify.

But Crum did say the situation isn’t dire yet.

“We are not scheduled to close, however, if we don’t find a way to fund ourselves, as with any organization, we face the inevitable,” he said.

The club, which is open every day from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and meets at S.P. Morton Elementary School, takes $150,000 a year to operate, Councill said.

The group’s parent organization offered to foot the rest of the bill if the Franklin club came up with $50,000. They have raised $20,000 so far and have $30,000 to go, Crum said.

Programs at the club include a study hall with tutoring, mentoring and a nightly meal.

Geraldine Fisher is the art coordinator, teaches crafts and photography, and has been with the club since its inception in 2003. She said that if the club were to close, the kids would ultimately lose out.

“You would have a large group of kids that wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” Fisher said. “And they wouldn’t have anything to do. (The club) does keep them off the street, and it does give them something to do. The afternoon hours, those hours are when kids have a tendency of getting in trouble. They’re here, so they’re getting into positive things.

“I know the kids enjoy coming here. They just don’t come here to play all day long. We do have programs set in place for the kids.”

Councill agreed.

“A lot of these kids, it really saves them,” he said. “Many of them don’t have anywhere to go after school.”

The mayor said that on any given day, there are 130 to 150 kids at the club. He said the club provides a creative, functional, positive atmosphere for the children.

“Statistically, the Boys & Girls Club students have always excelled above at-risk kids who don’t attend,” he said. “If they’re not going to be at the Boys & Girls Club, then they’re going to get in trouble. They don’t have anywhere else to go.”

The club is staffed by a paid director, paid adult supervisors and part-time teachers.

“That’s where the money goes,” Councill said.

Crum said “the return on the investment is astronomical. I believe for every $1 we spend on the front side of life, we save $1,000 on the back side of life by not paying for incarceration and rehabilitation.”

He added that he appreciates that Franklin gives money to the cause.

“It shows the city’s dedication to our young people,” Crum said.

For his part, Councill said the board can find that kind of dedication in new board members.

“We really need volunteers to serve on our board who care about kids who aren’t being cared for,” Councill said. “They are required to make a significant (monetary) contribution that shows real commitment.”

Charlie Passut contributed to this report.