by Lisa Tome
Sixth grader Andy Szekerczes works hard to retain his status as an honor student.
He said that being a member of the Rising Sun Boys & Girls Club unit helps.
"I get my homework done here. I get help with it, study for a test, or study for the next day. This (club Power Hour) helps me keep up with it," said Szekerczes.
He also said he likes the variety of activities offered at the club which he has attended since he was in kindergarten. "I like how the staff gives us equal opportunity to do things. We go outside, have free play, or organized activities."
Beginning early next month, Szekerczes and the other club members will have to find somewhere else to go after school.
"When the club closes, I will miss how everyone here treats me nice. And how we have the opportunity to do things and time to go outside and do activities," said Szekerczes.
The executive board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cecil County announced that three club units - Rising Sun, New East of North East, and Elkton - will close April 2. A letter was sent to parents of club members on March 17.
"During tough economic times, Boys & Girls Clubs across the country are in great demand. Unfortunately, the financial uncertainty and diminishing pool of resources are creating operating challenges for some of our own local Clubs, and tough decisions have to be made. We are saddened to say that due to the current economic situation and decreased funding; Boys & Girls Clubs of Cecil County will be suspending operations..." at the three sites.
On Friday, Boys & Girls Club of Cecil County released a statement. "The Board of Directors are working closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to strengthen the operational efficiency of the Boys & Girls Club of Cecil County, which has experienced some financial strain with the 72% member increase since 2012. We want to ensure parents, donors, and the general public that our commitment is unwavering. Club sites in Rising Sun, New East, and Elkton remain an integral part of our organization's service delivery...We will resume all operations and activities on June 16, 2015..."
The statement also says that the club is working to "reorganize its staffing/employment structure while "focusing to correct any operational deficiencies, especially those pertaining to budget and overall fiscal management." The goal is to have a "sound, strategic funding plan in place within three months."
Mary Jo Jablonski is the Executive Director for the county's clubs. She earns $26,000 annually. She explained the "temporary suspension of operations" at the three clubs. "It's lack of funding. We have grown. We served 519 kids in 2013 and 634 kids in 2014," said Jablonski.
She said the club's executive board met with regional Boys & Girls Club officials to discuss the planned restructuring.
But while the restructuring is underway, parents and children, ages 6-18, who have relied on the clubs for after school, will have nowhere to go.
The Elkton Club has 72 children enrolled and an average daily attendance of 47 children. New East has nine children enrolled and they attend daily.
Rising Sun’s unit has 52 children enrolled. Of those, 45 attend daily. The clubs that will remain open, North East and Charlestown, are at capacity.
As part of the restructuring, two to three staff members will lose their jobs, at least temporarily. Jablonski said a development officer will be hired to raise money.
Lisa Finney, is the grandparent of four members of the Rising Sun Unit. Finney wrote a letter to Mayor Travis Marion asking what can be done to keep the club open. The Town doesn't fund the club.
During the school year, not counting the summer program for which a weekly fee is paid, parents pay $35 per semester or $50 a year to join. Jablonski said it costs $750 per child for that time span. The clubs also run spot programming at housing developments.
Jablonski said money is needed. The clubs lost a major fundraiser in October and did not receive anticipated grant funding.
"It's organizations everywhere," said Jablonski. "We are here and we intend to stay. Funding has been dwindling for many years. We were able to do it. We are going to make this work."
The club units in Elkton, North East, New East, and Rising Sun will be open in summer beginning June 22. These programs cost $75 per week, per child and have a $10 trip fee per week. The clubs will be open because the children pay tuition.
A fund entitled "Keep Our Doors Open" is on the go fund me website at gofundme.com/p5n6gc.
"It would be nice if we could have a miracle happen and raise a bunch of money," said Kimberly Anders, Director of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cecil County.