After school program serving more kids with less funding

The Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, is one of many agencies around the state struggling to keep services going with thousands erased from its budget because of a lack of state funds.

But it is finding a way to serve more kids than ever.

Every day after school, the halls inside the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale go from sitting empty to bursting with children, from kindergarteners through high school seniors.

The Boys and Girls Club serves more than 1,100 kids, up from less than 600 just a few years back. Director of Operations Tina Carpenter says it has struggled without state funding but has been able to stay afloat.

"Even though we have grants to operate our three school sites, our main site does not have it and we really have to raise that money. And that was a significant portion of our budget," Carpenter said.

She says without those state funds, they’ve had to reduce their teen reach program, which teaches kids skills like how to be a man or about the dangers of drugs and violence. She says the club is lucky, though, that it hasn’t had to cut that or its others programs yet. "We’ve had to do some finagling," she said, adding that the club’s donors have stepped up to support them when the state did not.

Without state funding coming in, the amount of funding coming in for the Boys and Girls club has gone down dramatically. With a huge rise in demand, though, the number of kids coming in for the after school program has gone way up. Carpenter says with the closure of Big Brothers, Big Sisters back in March, the club has seen a spike in older kids coming in, too.

"Every day it seems like we have someone coming in, wanting to enroll their child," Carpenter said. She says they’re glad to be on of 29 agencies in southern Illinois getting a piece of $100,000 from the Poshard Foundation on Friday.  Executive Director Jo Poshard says they upped the amount they were giving from $70,000 to $100,000 because of the need created by the budget impasse.

"We made the decision, cut everybody an extra check and hopefully they’ll be able to help a lot more children with that extra money," Poshard said.

Carpenter says the Boys and Girls Club is getting $3,000. She says it’ll use the money mainly for mentoring the young children coming in. But, she says, donations like those are huge, because it means funds for snacks and programs during the summer break that keep kids in the club and off streets.

At the Poshard Foundation event, Glenn Poshard made an emotional plea to Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers fighting over the budget.

"Please remember, when you’re trying to balance the checkbook, balance it against the hearts and minds and souls of these children,” said Poshard.  He says it’s time to stop playing with the future of abused kids.

For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale or to make a donation, call 618-457-8877.

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