The Boys and Girls Club of Bloomfield is in financial jeopardy, at risk of shutting its doors as soon as June 2013, said Colleen Anderson, president of the club's board of directors.
Despite membership steadily rising each year, the club faces 2013 with a deficit of nearly 27 percent.
"We have paid off almost all of our debt obligations for 2012, but we had to empty our savings and fund-raising reserves to do it," said Sarah Lorett, the club's executive director.
"Running $3,000 in the red each month is not a good new normal," she said.
The club may be at risk, but its value to the community remains high.
"The Boys and Girls Club is one of the most valuable assets to the city of Bloomfield," said Norm Tucker, Bloomfield's community service director and former member of the club's board of directors.
"It's a positive place for the kids and the parents, and it would be terribly sad were it not able to keep its doors open," he said.
Each weekday afternoon during the school year, the club's 7,000-square-foot facility is visited by a tidal wave of 60 to 130 mostly elementary-aged children. They wash in through the front doors, all smiles as they unload backpacks into a wall of cubby spaces and join in the myriad activities for the day.
"We are the only after-school program running in the city," Lorett said.
In the summer, the club
Lorett is proud of her club, fiercely so, and keeps the kids on a 30-minute, rotating regimen of activities, from computer exercises and crafts to games and library-silence tutoring.
"The kids absolutely thrive on the structure, work impressively with each other and always get their homework done," she said.
"Each night, the children will practically fight over who gets to help sweep and do other chores," Lorett said.
But despite the well-kept appearance inside, some cracks outside the building are hard to miss. From the quarter-of-a-century-old van sitting in the parking lot to the broken letter 'G' in the club's wall that faces the street, more help is sorely needed.
With annual membership fees frozen at a fair-shake $15, children - and their families - are getting a heck of a deal, said Anderson. But her concern is how to continue into the New Year without greater help.
"We have grown so much so that we are now serving close to 1,000 kids and always stay open weekdays all year long," Anderson said.
"The community turns to us and we keep programs vibrant and stand firm that we positively impact each child in a lasting way, but I am concerned about our ability to keep this up," she said.
Like a lot of institutions in the wake of the recession, the club's financial health has clearly worsened. Tax forms from recent years demonstrate the charity clinging to every donation from a grant or a fund-raiser.
But despite the corner cutting and hand wringing, expenses - primarily from payroll taxes and insurance - threaten the community organization's future.
"We had a unit director, but when she left, we closed the position. I wear a lot of hats," Lorett said.
The club pays Lorett a modest salary, $42,000, and employs one administrative assistant, a sports-and-recreation director, plus five part-time, minimum-wage positions held by high school and college students. Most of its volunteers run the sports programs.
And despite annual donations from United Way and a recent infusion of stimulus money, the club is eking by. And it's not for lack of trying. Lorett said the club holds fund-raisers every month.
"Don't get me wrong, I will take lots of band-aids," she said, "but I'm really in need of a first-aid kit."
According to Lorett, a generous bequest from the Joseph and Marion Salmon Endowment made it possible to weather the last few years, but those funds have been exhausted.
But it is not only fiscal pressures that have mounted, Lorett said. The club also needs volunteers to staff the club's activities.
"If I could have someone volunteer and commit to a consistent schedule to help the kids, that would be amazing," she said.
Lorett and Anderson hope to see greater buy-ins from businesses and individuals in Bloomfield. They are working with the Blacktop Creepers to organize a benefit in May and plan to meet with the mayor, city manager and treasurer after the holidays.
Lorett cited the mayor, who also is a San Juan County commissioner, as a faithful booster of the club, giving discretionary funds to local charities, including the club, each year.
"The last thing I'd ever want to see is any closure of the Boys and Girls Club. I'm a big fan," said Mayor Scott Eckstein.
"We plan to meet with Sarah and the board in January to see what we can come up with together. Whatever we can do, I am sure we will do," he said.
Lorett, director of the club for the past nine years, said doing more with less each year has taken a toll.
"I will duct tape my office chair together, but I will not lower my standards with the kids," she said. "Each one is my child. Each family, I know like family. That's the bottom line."
A former BGCA member herself, Lorett also needs people with energy and ideas to serve on the board of directors. With six active members, Lorett wants a long-term strategy for growth to be a priority.
The club was formed in 1992 in response to gang activity and youth violence in the city. In 1993, it was incorporated. Soon after, a capital campaign raised nearly $1 million to build the current facility, which opened its doors in 2004.
"If someone has an idea to develop this club, we want to hear from them. We want to be here for awhile," Lorett said.
The club holds its board meeting at 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Cultural Center. For more information call (505) 632-0123.