11/04/11 — Pinching their pennies

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Pinching their pennies

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 4, 2011 1:46 PM

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Michael Reid practices cadences on the snare drum during a drumline rehearsal held late Thursday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of Goldsboro. This particular group, under the direction of Alando Mitchell, is the top drumline, the teacher says.

Bundled up in a scarf in her office, Boys and Girls Club Director Mary Ann Dudley says despite budget constraints and increased usage, the children who attend the programs at the club haven't noticed any differences in services.

Well, maybe they have noticed it's a bit cooler in the facility, but that's only because the staff members have begun watching every cent they spend ever since the economy turned sour and donors became a bit more frugal with their funding for operations costs.

The bulk of the center's programming, however, has remained intact, Mrs. Dudley said, due to program-specific funds.

Even with Goldsboro and Wayne County's budgets providing no local funding to the club, Mrs. Dudley said there haven't been any cuts to programs or hours of operation, even though money to support operating costs -- electricity, salaries and such -- is rare.

Recent renovations to the large, aging building have assisted with cutting down on utility costs, but she gives most of the credit to having a board of directors that oversees the budget.

"We benefit from having the board overseeing and having expense controls. They watch. They are very hands-on," she said.

And that hands-on mentality extends beyond counting dollars and cents, she said.

"It makes us such a viable organization because of the board members who get the community involved, especially through special events," she said.

Events like Pig in the Park, which was created by a board member to help with budget shortfalls within the organization, and the club's upcoming pancake breakfast Dec. 3, an event that has been held for more than 40 years. Last year, the club took in enough revenue from donations and selling $5 tickets to net $10,000 in revenue.

Those events are typically the club's best source for general operations funding, Mrs. Dudley said.

Almost all of the other money the club takes in is earmarked for one program or another. The United Way provides money to the club in a manner dependent on graduation rates, while the city, in years past, has given money specifically to be used for the Smart Choices program -- an program dedicated to helping at-risk youths make smart decisions about sex, drugs, alcohol and gangs. There are also Aim for Success and Power Hour activities that allow students to do their homework or other academic work before participating in other activities, like a new drumline the club was able to fund.

Community Development Block Grant funds, which come from the federal government, were used to help pay for the program, called "Drumming up Character." The grant is also earmarked for the Smart Choices program in addition to a grant from the Arts Council of Wayne County.

The $15,624 of CDBG funding this year will come through the city of Goldsboro's allocation. Of the city's total allocated amount, 15 percent of the allocation is available to be used for public service groups like the Boys and Girls Club.

Although the three units in Wayne County are all overseen by the same organization, other municipalities in the county manage to give annually to their specific branches.

Mount Olive gives $15,000 yearly to the club for continued payments on debt service for the branch building there. The building opened in November 2004, but the $235,000, 30-year loan will require quite some time for it to be paid off, Mrs. Dudley said. The town also donated the land for the building and assisted with getting a grant to make the project a reality.

The Northern Wayne unit in Fremont receives $8,000 per year from the town. That money goes toward operating expenses for the branch.

The Paley unit on Royall Avenue in Goldsboro didn't receive any money from local government this year outside of a portion of the federal CDBG grant funds the city collects, although Mrs. Dudley said Goldsboro will sometimes make donations in-kind throughout the year as the need arises. She also said there had been a marked increase in usage at that unit.

This summer, she said, the branch saw its daily usage numbers nearly double from 120 children a day to 200. Since school began, she said there has also been a major increase in participation as about 150 children come daily compared to an average of 125.

The increase in usage, she said, is due to an increase in need.

"There are a lot of parents that need a good, safe place for their children to be," she said. "And here they get a lot of bang for their buck."

A yearlong membership costs just $10, which gives those parents who work more than one job or are unable to care for their children after school an inexpensive alternative to leaving them at home alone. The low price is especially important since about 80 percent of the children who come through their doors receive free or reduced lunch and about 90 percent come from single-parent households.