Laurel Boys and Girls Club volunteers are applauding a city resolution to create a task force charged with helping the club find revenue and save money but are hoping the effort will lead to more financial support from the city.
“I’ve seen the club kind of fall apart. It doesn’t have the support it had when I came up ... We never had to worry about the heat being off or paint falling or whatever. I know money’s tight here. It’s tight everywhere, but if you could just help us stay here, help the club to survive,” Adrian Rousseau, who volunteers as athletic director and mentoring coordinator for the club, told the council.
Levet Brown, president of the Laurel nonprofit organization that provides athletic, academic and afterschool opportunities for children, said he came to the city two months ago to ask for assistance resolving the club’s budget difficulties.
Brown said the club, which provides services to 3,353 children, mostly from Laurel, is not in danger of shutting down, but would have to further decrease its services without additional funding.
“I’m pleased to see the mayor and City Council have formed this task force. I’m all for it. Most of our membership is all for it,” Brown said.
The club’s current fiscal budget is $293,000, Brown said, a decrease of more than $100,000 since two years ago. Brown said several grants the club had received in the past are no longer available, and while much of its funding comes from membership, Brown said that source is unreliable, as the club turns no child away due to inability to pay.
The biggest funding need is for operations, said Brown, who said it costs $68,000 per year to maintain utilities for the club’s 60,000-square-foot facility, which includes the Phelps Center, a 100-year-old building that was once Laurel High School, and an attached gymnasium. The building was purchased by the club in 2002 for $1 after the county declared it surplus, Brown said.
Currently, the club is volunteer-operated, with one paid maintenance employee. The lack of paid staff has led to difficulty keeping the club open during regular hours, Brown said, as well as caused programs such as the afterschool care and summer programs to be curtailed.
Mayor Craig Moe said the city is suffering financial challenges just like the club but that the task force might be able to identify other funding sources.
“I’m really hoping we can bring some people onboard who have financial expertise and can bring forward some strong recommendations,” Moe said.
Laurel Council President Frederick Smalls said he hopes the task force will develop long-term solutions.
“We don’t just want to plug leaks. We want to fix, to begin working to fix, a more systemic problem, by looking at the operational issues with the club, along with the club leadership, membership in the same room with people who have expertise in finance and business,” Smalls said.