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Thursday, July 9, 2009 01:37 pm

Boys and Girls Clubs shut down, other groups step up

Even though Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois announced this week that state funding cuts would temporarily shutter its central unit, leaders hope community support and federal dollars can get their organization back on track.

Jill Shurtz, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, says that beginning July 13, the 100 kids who once spent their summer days at 300 S. 15th St. in east Springfield will have the option to transfer to other organizations like the Nelson Center and the Springfield Urban League.

“We have places in town that have stepped up,” she says, “and offered to let our kids go for a reduced cost — which has been awesome.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs serve 2,911 central Illinois youth through programs that encourage character and leadership development, career development, health and life skills, arts and fitness. The organization previously received a $130,000 Teen REACH grant through the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide these services at its central unit, but this year the state eliminated the funds from its budget. The nonprofit has also lost other sources of state funding, Shurtz says.

The central unit needs nearly $370,000 annually to operate, but had been running since July 1 — the start of the state’s fiscal year — with no grant support. The board of directors voted Monday to temporarily close the building, in addition to laying off 10 employees, reducing staff hours and requiring remaining employees to take eight furlough days. Services at the ABC unit, located at 2705 S. 14th St., will remain unchanged.

“I am devastated at the recent decision to close our central unit,” Shurtz says. “At this time it’s hard to look much further than getting this central unit open as quickly as possible and restoring services.”

Shurtz can’t say when the Boys & Girls Clubs will reopen the building. She does confirm that the nonprofit could soon receive $200,000 in federal stimulus funds through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In previous years the organization received federal grants of $80,000 and nearly $300,000 from this office, she says.

The downtown Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball tournament will go on as planned this weekend. All proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs; Shurtz hopes to raise at least $20,000.

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