South Jersey is home to many wonderful organizations that deserve your support. And we hesitate to do what we are about to do - single out one as being particularly worthy.

But the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club has been forced to shut down one of its branches because of funding difficulties, and that's particularly unfortunate.

The problems and challenges of growing up in Atlantic City are no secret. Poverty, drug violence, so many single-parent families, so many ways for a child to make the wrong choices.

The Boys & Girls Club exists precisely to address those challenges, and it is remarkably successful. There are some 1,600 Atlantic City youths involved in its various programs - an increase of more than 500 children since 2012.

Working out of a modern, attractive, welcoming building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the club offers dozens of programs and opportunities. Sports and recreation programs, to be sure, but also programs for character and leadership development, education programs (including an eight-week summer-learning program to expand reading and math skills - and keep kids busy when they would otherwise be idle), arts, health and life-skills programs.

Until last week, the Boys & Girls club had a satellite unit at the other end of Atlantic City on Sovereign Avenue. The demand for the unit is there - but the funds to operate it are not.

The 70 to 100 children who were served at Sovereign Avenue will now be bused to Pennsylvania Avenue, but club officials are hoping to find the money to reopen the Chelsea branch in September.

Everyone decries the cycle of violence in Atlantic City, the so-called "thug culture" that draws children into a life of crime and violence, the seeming hopelessness of it all.

But it's not hopeless. The good kids outnumber the bad kids. And kids about to make bad decisions can be steered straight with the right mentoring. That's what the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club does.

And right now it needs your support.

As it happens, the organization's signature fund-raising event - Men R' Cookin' - will be held later this week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 20, at Harrah's Resort. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased by calling the club at 609-347-2697 or at That will buy an opportunity to sample some great recipes prepared by the men of our community, and it will provide the club with desperately needed funds.

As we mentioned, the Boys & Girls Club isn't the only worthy charity in the region. Certainly, the Police Athletic League is also a critical program for Atlantic City's young people.

And full disclosure: The Press of Atlantic City is a sponsor of the Men R' Cookin' event. But this isn't about the newspaper. It's about the children of Atlantic City. Indeed, it's about the kind of future they and the rest of us will have.

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