Offers of help the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City started pouring in as the organization prepared to suspend its programs Thursday.
“It seems like everyone is trying to help,” said Mayor Don Guardian, who was trying to funnel the calls to the nonprofit organization.
An unnamed law firm offered $5,000 for a summer program, Guardian said. Stockton College President Herman Saatkamp also told the mayor the college could host a Champions of Youth teen program. And Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Chairman James Kehoe offered help both from the CRDA and on behalf of Local 322, which represents plumbers and pipefitters, for which he is business manager.
Kehoe said the CRDA could use money pegged to be spent in the community.
“I personally think it’s an important part of Atlantic City,” he said of the club, which has operated in the resort for more than 40 years.
Debt reaching $150,000 sparked the decision to close the building on Pennsylvania Avenue at 6 p.m. Thursday. In letters sent to parents Tuesday, the board of directors said it would reopen in the fall. But David Ross, who is tasked with helping fix the financial problems, has called that the “worst-case scenario.”
“I feel better today than I did yesterday,” he said Thursday, after spending most of the day on the phone preparing for Friday’s Board of Directors meeting.
City Councilmen Marty Small and Mo Delgado challenged residents to rally and save the programs in time for summer.
Lost grants and reduced donations have been blamed for the money woes, which were first made public three months ago, when the club closed its Chelsea Unit on Sovereign Avenue.
The club owes “people who we do business with — everything and everybody,” Ross said Thursday. “We’re going to make good on those, and we’re going to make good on those as quick as humanly possible.”
It seems the community will work to make that happen.
“We’ve gotten a lot of offers,” he said. “Now, we just have to figure out what they mean and actually get an agreement and move forward.”
Mike Hauke, owner of Tony Baloney’s in the city’s South Inlet, said he proposed that local restaurants add $1 to their entrees, with that extra money pegged for the Boys & Girls Club.
“This is not rocket science,” he said. “If you go to all these players that have access to retail business space, you’re going to be able to get the $150,000 in a really short amount of time. I know for a fact my customers would bend over backward to do that.”
Guardian — a member of the Boys & Girls Club board of directors from 1995 to 2005 — said he would be happy to help recruit businesses and community leaders.
If backed by the city, Hauke said, he would go door-to-door to engage other businesses.
“It could be taken care of in a week or two weeks’ time, with proper management,” he said.
Ross, who is retired after 45 years with the Boys & Girls Club of America, is still looking through the financials to determine the best way to proceed.
“Having Dave here again is the right was to go,” said Guardian, who remembered Ross from when the Pennsylvania Avenue site was razed and rebuilt through CRDA money in 1998.
Small, who was a club member from ages 6 to 18, said he has presented an idea to Ross that he thinks could raise at least $50,000.
Ross said that will be brought to the board of directors’ meeting Friday. If approved, a public announcement would be made.
“In the next couple of days, (Ross) is going to be pulling together the board, who will make some decisions,” Guardian said. “What’s changed is that the community has really opened up in terms of funding.”
There is also a chance at more grant money, former Executive Director Mekos Denson told The Press of Atlantic City. Two grant applications still are outstanding: one from the Department of Education and one from the Department of Labor. He did not give amounts on what those would be.
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