On the road to recovery
After years of turmoil, membership is growing and donations are up
CHAMPAIGN — Holiday garlands are draped across the office windows of the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club in Champaign, and CEO Sam Banks may have nothing higher on his wish list than the community's full support for this longtime organization.
Hired by a mostly new board in July 2012, Banks says the club has left behind its turmoil years that included mounting financial stresses, declining enrollments and the abrupt departure of four board members in 2011.
"We've been through all that," he says.
He and the board have been busy rebuilding relationships between the club and the community, increasing club memberships and getting finances back on track, Banks says.
Membership is now double to triple what it was when he arrived, according to numbers provided by Banks.
A former CEO of the Cunningham Children's Home, Banks took over at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club when there were about 50 kids coming to its after-school program — which provides recreation, homework help, character-building and healthy-lifestyle lessons. Now about 90 kids are attending, Banks says.
Another 35 to 40 older youths come for a weekday evening program and another 30 attend a Saturday morning program, he says.
Year-long membership, which also includes a summer day program, has grown from 70 to 90 kids then to 250 now, Banks says.
Building a stable staff has helped, he says.
"It's been a safe place for kids to come," Banks says. "They've been able to establish positive relationships with the staff."
The club serves children and teens from primarily low-to-moderate income families. Nearly three-fourths of the children and teens who come to the programs live in single-parent families and 80 percent are black, though youths of all races are welcome, Banks says.
Kids pay $10 a year for membership (though even that small fee is waived for families that can't afford it) and $150 for the all-day, 10-week summer program.
One of Banks' dreams is site expansion — for example, opening club locations in Urbana and Rantoul. Most of the kids attending programs live in Champaign, but so many others in Champaign County could use a Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club nearby, he says.
"We need to be where the kids are," Banks says.
In the year ahead, he'd also like to restore a second site in Champaign for elementary school children, at First Presbyterian Church, that was eliminated by budget cuts. That would require hiring more staff, he says.
Another thing he hopes for is making more improvements to the gym at the club's 201 E. Park St. building: The rubber floor is 30 years old, and the ceiling and walls remain in need of repairs, Banks says.
With the support of a donor who wants to remain anonymous, about $20,000 worth of work will be done on the deteriorating plaster walls in the next few months, but the gym still needs about $125,000 worth of repairs, he says.
Hiring more staff, doing more repairs, even expanding sites all require community support.
"One of the things we really need is the support of the community," Banks says.
Support appears to be picking up, though.
"In total, I'd say our giving is up dramatically this year," Board President Todd Petersen says.
The club's revenue declined some in the 2013 period that ended June 30 over the previous 12 months, partly due to lower contributions and less money from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America national organization — though special-event income was up.
But for the first five months of the current fiscal year that started in July, the club's revenue has risen 74 percent and contributions have been up 124 percent over the same months last year, according to Jim Butler, the club's interim director of finance.
The increase in contributions has come mostly from more corporate and individual contributors, Butler said. The club's Dancing with the Champaign-Urbana Stars fundraiser alone provided half of the revenue increase, he said.
Petersen says a transformation of this club has been underway for two-and-a-half years, starting with the recruitment of new board members and some tough decisions to cut building, staff and transportation expenses to get finances in shape.
The club has paid down a $200,000 line of credit to $160,000, and has been working on some needed repairs to the Park Street building, Petersen said.
As for Banks, Petersen says, "what a difference he has made."
"Sam is a known individual in the community, well-respected, well-regarded. People like to follow him," Petersen says. "He's been running organizations like the Boys & Girls Club for 20 years, and frankly, he's been a great partner for the board, for what we've been able to accomplish so far."
Petersen says he knows people don't want to give to an organization that might not be around for the long term, or that doesn't appear to be stewarding its resources well. But he thinks the current leadership of the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club has demonstrated otherwise.
"We've shown over the last two-and-a-half years that we're going to be a viable entity in the future," he said.
Dancing with the Champaign-Urbana Stars. Held Nov. 1, this year's event netted $137,600 after expenses. That's more than double the event's take in 2012 — $64,300 — when the gala dance-contest fundraiser was first held, according to information supplied by the club.
ON TAP IN 2014:
Steak and burger dinner: Feb. 27 at Holiday Inn, Urbana.
Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club Annual Golf Classic: June.
Details on club's website: http://www.dmbgc-cu.org.