Editorial: Boys & Girls Clubs deserve community support

Published Aug 30, 2014 at 12:14AM

The Redmond and Terrebonne Boys & Girls Clubs won’t be open when school starts next week. Money is in short supply, and without enough to assure the clubs will be able to continue to operate, says former board member Paul Rodby of Redmond, it makes little sense to open them temporarily.

This is hardly the first financial hurdle the clubs have faced. Since Boys & Girls Clubs arrived on the Central Oregon scene in the mid-1990s, they’ve struggled with finances, so much so that only four — two in Bend and one each in Redmond and Terrebonne — remain of an organization that once also was in La Pine, Prineville, Madras and Warm Springs.

It’s true that the clubs are expensive if compared with other youth programs, no doubt because they offer substantially more than others do. They’re open five days a week, all day during the summer and early in the morning, after school and into the evening during the school year. They’re staffed by professionals, though volunteers play a critical role in club activities. And, they offer members a variety of things to do, from homework clubs to nutrition programs to just plain fun.

They do something else, as well. Nationwide, some 65 percent of Boys & Girls Club members qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches; membership costs are intentionally held down to make the clubs affordable as a result. That low price is critical for many of the families the clubs serve. Working parents rely on the clubs as a replacement for more expensive child care or for no child care at all.

The Redmond and Terrebonne clubs are at a critical point. They could opt to change their model, but in doing so they surely would have to give up affiliation with a national organization the provides valuable resources. They undoubtedly would be unable to provide the level of service they currently offer their communities.

Unless they get substantial support from their communities, they may have no choice, however. They need, Rodby estimates, some $175,000 by October. Their communities and the children in them will suffer if the goal is not met.

Residents and businesses will have to step up to the plate, no doubt. But if Boys & Girls Clubs offer value to the greater community as well, and we believe they do, the city of Redmond, the school district, perhaps even the county, should find a way to pitch in, as well.