The Transylvania Times -

By Ray Tuers 

Grants Ease Club's Financial Burden – Transylvania County, NC

 

Last updated 8/15/2020 at 8:53pm

The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County has received more than $100,000 in grants that are allowing it to ease financial burdens on its member families during the pandemic and to make a major improvement in its clubhouse.

"We're just so grateful to the generous organizations for this help," said the club's executive director, Sarah Rae St. Marie. "These are tough economic times for our club families during the pandemic, and the club itself, too, because of having to cancel so many of our fundraising events."

The largest of the impacts from grants dealt with the required reduction in the number of children accepted to its eight-week summer program that ended last Friday.

Because of that grant money, the children got free tuition.

Pandemic restrictions forced the club to limit attendance in its summer program to just over 50 this year.

In the past, average daily attendance was more than 200.

With nearly 300 members applying for the limited number of openings, the club had to hold a lottery to pick those it could enroll and still adhere to state restrictions on distancing.

What to do about the others?

"Our hearts were heavy at the thought of the more than 215 who were not selected in the lottery but had registered for the program not having a safe place to learn this summer," St. Marie said.

Then she had an idea.

She went to the former executive director, Candice Walsh, who is now grant writer for the club, and asked her to look for alternative ways to accommodate those other children.

Were there other area camps that might accept them and how could those costs be handled? she asked.

Walsh discovered there were indeed other summer programs and she used her expertise to obtain a grant from a major local charitable organization, the Pisgah Health Foundation, to cover the costs for 95 children. Families gratefully signed up.

Those children attended camps run by the county's Recreation Department and two private charitable organizations, Mountain Roots and Muddy Sneakers. Mountain Roots ran programs at the Brevard Academy on Hendersonville Highway and Pisgah Forest Elementary School. Muddy Sneakers operated a camp at the Reeb Ranch, a facility just over the county line in Henderson County. The Recreation Depart-ment ran eight weeks of a variety of camps, mostly for children 6 to 12.

A Special Fund

Pisgah Health had established a COVID-19 rapid response fund designed to ease economic burdens caused by the pandemic.

It gave the Boys & Girls Club more than $50,000 to allow the children to go to those outside day camps. Pisgah is a public charity, founded last year, that evolved out of the Transylvania Regional Hospital Foundation.

"On behalf of the Pisgah Health Foundation, it's very special to be able to provide this opportunity for so many at-risk children in our community," said Art Fisher, a member of the foundation's board. "This opportunity will make a meaningful difference in the lives of almost a hundred families in Transylvania County and symbolizes the very reason we exist as a foundation."

"It's wonderful help for those families, many of whom are facing really hard times because of the pandemic's economic impact," agreed Walsh. "We are so happy to have been able to ease one burden for them and we're very grateful to the Pisgah Health Foundation for making it possible."

Mountain Roots offered six weeks of camps for rising first through fifth graders.

They incorporated outdoor play, nature and community services with the arts.

Muddy Sneakers hosted six-to-seven weeks of summer camp, depending on the age of the child.

The county operated its camps on its property off Ecusta Road.

Walsh said it is important to note that those camps, as well as the Boys & Girls Club itself, abided by the pandemic safety restrictions and guidelines set forth by the governor.

More Good News

The Pisgah Health grant wasn't the only good news Walsh had to report this summer.

In addition to finding and funding camps for children who couldn't be accepted at the club, the organization received other grant money with which it provided free-tuition summer scholarships for all the children who did get picked in its lottery.

Normally, its summer program costs up to $25 per week for a child in the daily activities.

With a scholarship taking care of that weekly fee, a family had only a one-time $100 registration fee.

"That's one more way of easing financial burdens on our families," said St. Marie.

Walsh received those grant funds from Lake Toxaway Charities.

It awarded a total of $25,000, which allowed the club to provide not only the free summer attendance but attendance scholarships on a need basis throughout the upcoming school-year program, which starts Aug. 24.

Lake Toxaway Charities, a nonprofit organization in the nearby Lake Toxaway community, supports a variety of charities in the county.

Another grant, $5,000 from the City of Brevard, is also being used for tuition scholarships.

Some 145 youngsters receive those scholarships each year.

"It's important help for our families, especially during these tough times, to be relieved of that expense," said Walsh.

Most of the households the club serves have an annual income of only $10,000 to $20,000, she said. "And that was before the crisis hit," she added. In a recent survey, 60 percent of club families responding said they are now experiencing a decrease in income.

Still More Good News

In addition to the direct help to families' pocketbooks, the club got a welcome boost for its own operations.

That came in the form of a grant to make substantial improvements and additions to its art room, a busy facility in its 25,000-square-foot clubhouse on Gallimore Road.

It is almost constantly humming with children creating paintings, drawings and craft projects.

That was for $25,000 and was one of only seven in the nation awarded by Michaels arts and crafts stores in a partnership with the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA).

It is called a MAKE Space Grant, designed to refresh, renovate and refurbish dedicated creative arts spaces in Boys & Girls clubs across America.

"Michaels wants its local communities to unleash their inner makers," said BGCA in its grant announcement, "and at Boys & Girls Clubs we want our young people to understand the impact of community engagement. We see a powerful opportunity to support creativity."

Walsh said the local club will be adding high-end art materials and equipment to its large art room, upgrading sinks, buying new tables and chairs and adding drying racks for artwork, in addition to making other improve-ments.

She said the club is planning to introduce the improvements in a virtual presentation at the end of August.

Pandemic Impacts

The grants are particularly important this year because the pandemic has forced the club to cancel many of its special events, putting a dent in its critical fund-raising efforts.

Special events normally bring in almost $250,000 annually.

Income from the largest, September's Mountain Song Festival, alone amounted to some 10 percent of the operating budget.

"Grants such as these this spring and summer not only provide extra help for club families," said Walsh, "but they also ease the financial burden on the club itself in these tough times for organizations such as ours that depend so heavily on donations."

Donations from individuals and organizations make up the lion's share of support and this year, without special events, the club is having to rely more on them than usual.

Its annual fund drive started in April and its resource development director, Kathleen de la Torre, said community supporters are stepping up to the plate.

The drive, she said, has already reached well over half of its $400,000 goal.

"This community really appreciates what the club means to our families and children," she said.

The drive will continue through the end of the year. Donations may be made by going to the Club's website, http://www.bgctransylvania.org, or by mail to P.O. Box 1360, Brevard.

The club had to close its normal after-school activities in March when schools shut down because of the pandemic.

An average of 240 children up to high school age usually fill its main clubhouse and a Teen Center on the outskirts of Brevard each weekday.

So, there was no choice then but to lock its doors to avoid violating state limits on the size of indoor gatherings.

During the remainder of last year's school year, the club made up for it by initiating a number of virtual activities to continue services and maintain contact with members.

For the coming school year starting this month, it is initiating a new all-day program schedule in which it will accommodate children on days they do not attend school under the school district's A/B plan. That will operate Monday through Thursday; on Fridays the club will offer virtual support for all members.

The Boys & Girls Club is the largest youth organization in the county. It has an operating budget of more than $1 million and depends almost entirely on donations, special events and grants for its revenue.

 
 

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