It’s been a long haul for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Oregon, formed in 1996 when leaders of the original Bend and Redmond clubs decided fundraising might be easier as a single entity. Now they’re preparing to undo their partnership and go their separate ways.

In the 18 years since the Central Oregon organization was formed, the Boys & Girls Clubs have had both successes and difficulties. The successes come in the number of children they serve day after day, winter and summer.

The difficulties all stem from one thing: money. In the early days the clubs expanded rapidly. The Bend club opened its doors in 1995, with Redmond following in 1997. Soon there were clubs in Terrebonne, Madras, Warm Springs, La Pine and Prineville. All required paid full-time staff, and finding the money to keep all of them open proved impossible. By 2008 most had closed.

Recently, the Boys & Girls Clubs have operated at two locations in Bend and one each in Redmond and Terrebonne.

It’s taken well over $1 million a year to keep the doors open even for four clubs, and raising that much has been difficult. Federal grants for such programs have dropped off dramatically in recent years, for one thing.

Too, it always has and continues to be difficult to persuade donors in one community to put their money in a pot that feeds clubs in three. Club leaders hope the separation — Redmond and Terrebonne will be one unit, while the two Bend clubs will be the other — will make fundraising easier.

We hope so, too.

Boys & Girls Clubs are a tremendous asset to the communities in which they operate. They provide hours of activities to schoolchildren through high school-age five days a week, all year long. Kids can get help with homework, there’s physical activity aplenty, arts programs and a host of activities designed to help children grow up well. Moreover, while the clubs are open to all, they’re priced to allow children with limited financial means to participate fully.

If the separation is to be successful, donors in all three communities must step up and give, generously. In doing so they will help make a better future for the children who are their future.