Boys and Girls Clubs fight to balance budget -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Boys and Girls Clubs fight to balance budget

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MARION, SC (WMBF) - Several federal grants supporting community programs in the Pee Dee aren't being offered anymore. That leaves some Boys and Girls Clubs in the area without funding. Now project directors are asking the community to step in to help.    

The Marion Boys and Girls Club is about a year old, and some people say this is one of the few programs in the area, keeping kids off the streets.

The lack of funding may put some of these kids back on the streets.

"Because of funding issues right now it's probably been the worst for us in my 16 years here, there is no reserves right now, we've spent every dollar we have for the support of our kids," said Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee, Neal Zimmerman.

The struggling economy has cut several federal grants, adding up to about $1 million in funding that the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee depend on to keep running.

"The Boys and Girls Club is a safe haven… between the hours of three and seven they say that's the prime time a child is getting in trouble with the law, getting hurt, getting bullied," said the Marion club director, Latoria Lewis.

Along with providing a safe place for kids to play, the club has several educational programs that help kids with school work and life skills.

"My son has grown a lot coming here, because I'm the type that I work, I work at a nursing home but he learns and then teaches me things," said Rebecca Evans, whose son is a member of the Marion Boys and Girls Club.

Evans says she is very active with the club, volunteering her time and donating money to the organization.

Some kids say they enjoy being at the Boys and Girls Club.

"I can do my homework here and chill with my friends," said Alexis Williams, 12, a member of the Marion club.

"It's more fun that sitting at home, doing nothing… we can play basketball and read and play Xbox," said Nomari Swinney, 13, another member of the Marion club.

Boys and Girls Club directors in the Pee Dee say closing one of its facilities is not an option for them.

Because of its debt, the organization had to cut nighttime programs catering to teens, and have not been able to hire more staff to support the large number of members.

"Everything we spend we have to raise, most of it we try to do local, state-wide and may be able to get some federal funding to support our programs, we are not a government entity," said Zimmerman.

Each Boys and Girls Club has about 150 members, but facilities, like the one in Marion can only serve about 60 of them at a time.

Now program supporters are speaking out, asking for help.

"We need more programs and we need to get more people involved," said Evans.

Program directors tell me Marion County is an underserved area when it comes to programs for kids.

Even though money is tight, they hope to add more facilities in Nichols and Mullins sometime in the future.

Click here to learn more about the organization and to learn how to get involved with your local Boys and Girls Club.

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