Boys and Girls club closing its doors

Dave Blottner felt "pretty crummy" on Monday afternoon. It was nearly three o'clock, which meant that the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse was about to open its clubhouse doors.

Dave Blottner felt “pretty crummy” on Monday afternoon.

It was nearly three o’clock, which meant that the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse was about to open its clubhouse doors.

And as the executive director, it was Blottner’s job to tell the kids that the club was out of money and would be shutting down at the end of the week.

The club, previously known as the Whitehorse Youth Centre, has been around for about 10 years.

It provides a safe space for youth ages 12 to 18, some of whom are escaping violence or substance abuse at home.

The group needs at least $231,000 a year to keep their youth centre operating at minimum standards.

This money goes toward paying wages, the mortgage, food, heat, power and telephone and internet connections.

The Yukon government and city of Whitehorse provide annual contributions that cover $140,000 worth of those expenses, said Blottner.

“That leaves a $91,000 difference between what we get from core funding and what we have to fundraise.”

A lot of this money comes in through project grants, which the club has to apply for each year.

“But the issue with these grants is that they’re only looking for new and innovative programming,” said Blottner.

“Yet one of the things that we find our kids need most is consistency.”

And this year there was less money in the granting pools to go around, as well as more groups applying.

The club went to its other forms of fundraising, doing things like selling hotdogs in front of the Superstore and shovelling driveways.

But without the grants, the club was left about $50,000 short.

The centre was forced to cut the hours that it is open for the youth and staff has voluntarily worked without pay.

And members from the community have chipped in, donating food, and stepping in to keep the computers running so the youth can craft their resumes, said Blottner.

“The community has really come together and pitched in to help keep us afloat. It’s just not quite enough.”

Without more money, the club will have to close its doors on December 14.

“That’s that last available date that I can afford to pay my staff,” said Blottner.

“We’ve put in a request to both the city and Yukon government to increase core funding and help the club out.

“If either of them come through we’re willing to keep going – but right now we’re in a place where we can’t make it work anymore.”

Premier Dennis Fentie was ambiguous about whether his government would help out the struggling youth centre.

“The government did advance to the Boys and Girls Club the last quarter of its fiscal allocation for this fiscal year,” said Fentie during question period on Monday.

“There are also officials with the Youth Directorate working with the Boys and Girls Club.”

Government is looking into providing groups like the Boys and Girls Club with longer-term funding.

And the Yukon Party government has significantly increased funding to youth groups in Whitehorse, said Fentie.

“We’ve gone from around $60,000 annually to in excess of a $100,000 annual investment.”

“Six years ago, this government announced core funding of $110,000 to youth NGOs like BYTE, Youth of Today Society and the Boys and Girls Club,” countered NDP house leader Todd Hardy.

“What is it today? It is $110,000 still six years later and that is a big zero increase.”

The city of Whitehorse has not even received a request to help the Boys and Girls Club, said City Manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“Not formally, we haven’t received a letter or request for extra funding or anything like that,” he said.

If a request did come in, it would be considered by council.

But that would take time and be unlikely to meet the deadline to save the youth centre.

The club has also partnered with the city to create the Chillax’n Lounge at the Canada Games Centre.

The club provides staff and programming and sees between 30 to 50 kids per night, said Blottner.

But even without the Boys and Girls Club the Chillax’n Lounge will remain open, said Shewfelt.

The club also provides a youth worker voice on the Youth Justice Panel and provides hot food for the outreach van.

But the main service is its clubhouse where they provide a safe after-school environment for the kids to come, drop in, hang out.

The clubhouse also has a large indoor skate park and gives young graffiti artists free rein of its walls.

“If kids feel that they need to go tag something or want to draw all over the walls, they can do that here instead of doing it somewhere else in the city,” said Blottner.

The youth centre generally sees about 20 kids a night.

Fearing the worst, Boys and Girls Club staff have been working on putting together a list of all of the different resources in town, said Blottner.

“For those that really do need a place to go, we can hopefully find another program that they’ll be able to take advantage of.”

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