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Funding Shortage Continues For Local Boys & Girls Club

Tuesday April 16, 2013

By Cookie Steponaitis

One part of our community hardest hit by the economic downturn is the non-profit organization that provides services depended upon by the community and is currently reaching down deep to find support for planning the future. The Vergennes Boys & Girls Club has been fortunate to receive federal grant funds from the national office of the Boys & Girls Club of America since opening its doors in 1999. The funds annually range from $75,000-$100,000 and comprise a considerable part of the budget of the local club. During the past year the U.S. Justice Department funds were cut in half for programs nationwide. Nationally for the Boys & Girls Club it meant the pool of money decreased from $46 million to $24 million and at the local level, the Vergennes Boys & Girls Club funding decreased from $100,000 to $30,000 in one cut. The massive cut is staggering to many clubs nationwide and does not reflect any lack of performance but a much smaller pool of funds to be divided nationally and spread further.

The budget news reached the Vergennes Boys & Girls Club and staff in late November and it was immediately apparent that the club could not continue in the same format. “It was clear from the start that business as usual was not going to work and we would have to look at a combination of reductions in expenses with increased resource development to keep the Club open and viable,” shared Vergennes Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mike Reiderer. “After careful deliberation we decided that closing our Youth Center which had served elementary age kids was going to allow us to significantly reduce expenses with the least impact on our service to the community. Unfortunately this meant having to let two part time employees go and we also reduced other employees’ hours, wages and benefits to balance the budget.”

Recognizing that this impacted families who relied on the club for after school coverage, the group took action to counteract as best as they could the change in services offered by keeping the Youth Center open until the holiday break in December and allowing students in grades five and six to join the Teen Center. Currently the group is working with VUES to develop an after school homework program for younger students and hopes to run it three days a week.

Strongly linked to the community and a willing partner with many civic groups, VBGC partners not only with VUES principal June Sargeant but has seen a quick influx of sixth graders that has increased the average daily attendance at the Teen Center by about 35%. “Financially,” shared Mike Reiderer, “we have seen a wonderful outpouring of support from the community as word spread of our fiscal challenges this year.  Existing supporters, WowToyz, DR Power and Renaissance Development Co. immediately increased their commitment to the Club and the Vergennes Lions stepped up with a generous contribution to continue their support of Club programs. Recognizing that cutting the youth program meant a cut to our after school snack program as well the Vergennes Rotary Club rallied it’s members as well as the Middlebury Rotary Club to provide an ongoing donation to allow the Club to serve healthy snacks to our members every day.”

Searching for a strong signature fundraising event the organization held on April 5th the Spring into Summer Auction and dinner at the Middlebury Inn to benefit club programs. “The evening was a huge success selling out with more than 100 people in attendance who enjoyed a fabulous dinner prepared by Inn staff as they bid on both silent and live items donated by businesses and individuals from Addison County and beyond,” explained Mike Reiderer. “Auctioneer Charlie Barsalow entertained while encouraging bids on items as far ranging as a Vermont Teddy Bear to Boston Red Sox tickets and even a hand built kayak donated by Ferrisburgh resident Roger Holzapfel.”

Other fundraisers are already on the horizon and currently the club is distributing passes to Buffalo Wild Wings and for any customer who brings this pass to the South Burlington Buffalo Wild Wings on May 2nd the restaurant will donate 10% of their bill (pre-taxed food sales only, alcohol not included) to our local Club. This is hopefully the first of many partnerships with the restaurant as the national chain has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help Clubs across the country.  Passes can be acquired by calling the Club at 802-877-6344, by email bgcvergennes@comcast.net or printed from their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bgcvergennes. The Club will also be selling tickets to a Vermont Lake Monsters game this summer beginning in May. The Lake Monsters will contribute 50% of the price of each ticket sold back to the Club to support programming.

Looking for a way to get involved? The Boys & Girls Club is looking not only for fundraising help but for mentors to serve as positive role models for kids. Take an hour or two and come and be with the teens. Play games, talk and share in their lives. Or perhaps you can come and help plan the next event or work to increase funds so that the Club can continue to serve Addison County youth with quality programming.


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