HOUSTON – After six year, the Houston Boys and Girls club has closed its doors but members of the local advisory board hope to be able to provide services for children and youth again in the future.
The clubhouse opened November 2007, offering after-school programs based on leadership and character development as well as tutorial and homework assistance. Club membership was well over 100 youth with daily attendance averaging close to 80 per day at the onset.
But more recently, club attendance has dropped dramatically and funding has been an issue. The club is averaging about 35 members in attendance while the annual budget of $160,000 has not seen a decrease.
Members of the local advisory board for the facility proposed closing the club and restructuring a plan to offer services to children and youth in a more cost-effective manner.
“The business model is not good,” said board member Tom Byrne. “There needs to be a different financial plan.”
Boys and Girls clubs are funded in part by grants and corporate donations, but financial support at the local level is critical to the success of a facility and board members felt that support was lacking for the Houston club. Although they all agreed there is a need for the services the club provides, they believe community support and involvement is key to the sustainability of the program.
Zell Long, Chief Professional Officer of Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi said she regretted the decision to close the club but the BGCNMS corporate board would support it.
“We hate to see any clubhouse close once we begin offering services in a community,” Long said in a formal press release. “But we understand the desire of the Houston Advisory Board to seek increased community commitment for moving the clubhouse forward since broad public support and involvement are critical in building a successful youth organization.”
One of the most prominent concerns of the advisory board, along with community support and funding, is securing solid, local leadership to direct the facility. In its seven years of operation, the Houston clubhouse has had three directors, all from outside Chickasaw County, and board members believe a local leader could bring in more community support.
“We do need this club,” said board member Donna Schomburg. “We need a local leader who can pull the community in.”
Long pointed out some of the successes of the club including
* Club members average GPA of 3.0 for 2012-13 school year
* 46 percent of club members were on a school honor roll
* Graduation rate for club members was 100 percent
* Houston club was the first in North Mississippi to receive a Cal Ripkin, Jr., Badges for Baseball grant
Board members are still working toward structuring a program that will provide educational, leadership and character development programs for local children and youth. Although the club is currently closed to the public, board members are supporting BGCNMS through the annual Dance Like the Stars event Aug. 24 and feeling out community support to determine if it will sustain the program in the future.