The Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Clubs were denied two critical, capital project-funding requests during this year’s legislative session that would have improved and stabilized daily food and development services for youth at two local programs.
The Kenai Clubhouse Child Nutritional Program asked for upgrades for the onsite kitchen that provides 112 suppers every weekday during the school year without access to a stove or dishwasher. The Kasilof Clubhouse Morning and Afterschool Youth Development Programs applied for three years of continued funding support for the morning and afterschool programs.
“We had no idea if we would get the funding,” said Clubhouse Director Kim Dent. “We did a good ‘ask’ and there was just no money in the (state’s) budget.”
The total amount for the two requests was $335,000, $140,000 of which was for Kenai’s kitchen, and $195,000 to cover three years of operating expenses for Kasilof’s programs, according to the requests.
Snacks have been offered at local clubs for 26 years, and the first supper was served in August 2012 at the Nikiski location, said Executive Director of the Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Clubs Heather Schloeman. That’s a difference between a two-component snack and a five-component meal for kids, she said.
“Now, seven of the eight local programs are serving suppers,” Schloeman said. “This includes prepping meals for the Kenai Teen Center that does not have a kitchen at their facility.”
The meals are funded through the State of Alaska Child Nutritional Programs, Schloeman said.
In it’s beginning stages, in January 2012, 933 suppers were served, and 6,263 suppers were served in April 2015, according to the peninsula-wide meal counts Schloeman has been tracking since commencement. The plan is to continue to increase those numbers, she said.
“Not all families are able to provide the types of meals we are serving,” Schloeman said. “The community is obviously in need of these programs. “We have our kids for long periods of time during the summer months and right after school during after school time. Our kids our hungry and these programs are a benefit to them and their families.”
Dinner at the Kasilof club is the last meal some members may receive until the next morning, Schloeman wrote in the funding request. The Kenai Clubhouse is cooking hundreds of meals weekly without a dishwasher, warming oven, stove top, commercial refrigeration and with minimal prep space, Schloeman wrote in the funding request.
There are three teen programs that provide mentoring and recreational services for children ages 13 through 18, and five clubhouses ages 5 through 12, across the Kenai Peninsula, that see 420 kids in total every day, Schloeman said.
The demand is being met, but with obvious difficulties, Schloeman said.
Raelyn Passe, Tristan Sigura and Parker Mattox all attend the summer program at the Kenai Clubhouse five days a week. The clubhouse is open from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Passe said her favorite meal is the nachos, and Mattox said he likes the cheeseburgers.
Mattox said the meals are usually very healthy, with a vegetable and fruit option at every single meal.
“Sometimes if we are lucky enough we get a cookie or something,” Mattox said.
The three said they never go hungry after a meal unless they chose not to get more food. Without the meals Passe said she would be tired and irritable. She would have trouble concentrating on activities such as schoolwork and spending time with friends would be less enjoyable. Mattox and Sigura agreed.
The renovations would have helped tremendously, Lee said. All preparation and cooking would be easier to execute if the upgrades could be afforded, Lee said. Luckily for items such as the nachos and cheeseburgers loved by Passe and Mattox, beef can be cooked in the oven, she said.
Alaska has two Boys and Girls Club organizations, one for the Kenai Peninsula, with six sites, and one based in Anchorage, with 30 sites spread across the state. In addition, there are several separate locations on military installations that operate under a military charter, said Director of Development and Communications for Alaska Boys and Girls Clubs, Jennifer Brown.
Alaska Boys and Girls Club Chief Executive Officer, Alana Humphrey said the state’s two organizations operate on a combination of grant, foundation, private and corporate funding.
Both organizations have also received State funding for capital projects but received no project funding from the 2015 legislative session, Humphrey said. Federal funding for the organizations has declined sharply since 2008, she said.
In the Kasilof development program request, Schloeman wrote the program has been able to pool resources, and has been using all sources of funding “extremely conservatively and efficiently,” but “would be hard pressed to continue the program without a significant amount of funding.”
“What I try to get across to the community, is that if they want quality programs from after school to sports programs the money has to come from somewhere,” Schloeman said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org