Boys & Girls Club trimming programs as donations shrink

The 30 clubs, serving 17,000 kids yearly, are trimming more than $2 million from a $17.7 million budget because of the loss of income from its endowment and dropping donations. Its largest loss is a $775,000 cut from the United Way of Metro Atlanta, which depends on pledges from area workers.

Job losses and belt-tightening by workers cut into United Way's expected income, said Milton J. Little Jr., the organization's president. It reduced grants to the clubs and other organizations in June.

William Lampley, the president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, has cut staff by 12 percent, focusing on positions that don't serve children. The clubs are reducing the number of programs.

"It's a decision we did not want to make," he said.

Cuts in administrative support will eventually affect programs, he said. At the same time, demand is increasing because more kids come for no- or low-cost sports and education during lean times, Lampley said.

"We want to be available when they need us the most," he said.

The pinch in charitable giving is being felt across the board. Donations in 2008 were down more than 5.7 percent in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, according to Giving USA, a yearly report.

"It's the worst decline in giving in 50 years," said Patrick Rooney, the executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which helped conduct the report.

Some charitable sectors, such as human services, which the Boys & Girls Clubs fall into, suffered more than the national average. Giving to human services was off nearly 16 percent, Rooney said.

A poll conducted by the center among those who raise money for charities in late 2008 showed confidence at an all-time low, he said.

"It's inauspicious for philanthropies," Rooney said.

Albert Lindsey Jr., a Douglas County middle school teacher and pastor, grew up going to what is now the Warren-Holyfield Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta. It changed his life for the better, reinforcing good values, and promoting education and teamwork, he said. He got his first job there.

A Boys & Girls Club study shows that 86 percent of club members go to college.

Lindsey is concerned about how the cuts will affect the coming generation.

"Without the ... Boys Club, I and my friends could have very easily made other choices that would not have landed us in the positions we have now," he said.

"It will be a lot tougher if we don't make these kinds of investments in young people," he said.

Little said United Way could restore some of the cuts, if the economy turns around.

"But no promises are being made," he said.

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