Since 2009 federal grants to the Boys & Girls Club of Alaska have declined to less than $1 million of the more than $8 million previously allocated.
Only 26 of the formerly more than 40 clubhouses operate statewide and local services are provided under increasing strain. Private sector partnerships fill in some of the shortfall.
“We have in the past relied heavily on federal funding that of course has gone away over time,” said Jennifer Brown, director of Development and Communications for Alaska Boys & Girls Clubs. “We need to do everything we can for all that is lost.”
Alaska has two Boys and Girls Clubs chapters; each operates under a different charter. The Kenai Peninsula has six sites with a main office in Kenai, and the second, with a main office in Anchorage, has 26 sites spread out statewide.
Not all of the closed clubhouses were a direct result of reductions in federal grant money, Brown said. Some communities have chosen to operate independently of the state’s two main organizations, she said.
The Kenai Peninsula has not been immune to the decline.
Last year the Kenai Peninsula clubs were denied two federal grants totaling $335,000. One would have facilitated upgrades to the Kenai Clubhouse Nutritional Program’s kitchen that feeds 112 mouths every weekday during the school year and the second would have funded the Kasilof Clubhouse Morning and Afterschool Youth Development Programs for three years.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention distributes the bulk of federal dollars to Boys & Girls Clubs organizations, which then funnel the allocations to individual sites, Brown said. Alaska’s clubhouses also receive nearly $1 million every year through the Alaska Native Education Equity Grant, she said.
Alaska’s two organizations get by on a mix of grant, foundation, private and corporate funds, the later two of which are becoming increasingly important.
“We definitely felt the pinch of the loss of federal dollars,” Brown said.
The Boys and Girls Clubs and Alaska Communications joined up in 2011 to start Summer of Heroes as a way to increase support for the state’s youth resources. Alaska Communications donates up to $15,000 of proceeds from an annual signup fundraiser, and $75,000 total since the program began six years ago, Brown said.
That money goes into the organization’s general fund to pay staff salaries, or basic, necessary maintenance projects not covered by grant money, Brown said.
Summer of Heroes also awards five of Alaska’s youth, ages 6-18 and who are heavily involved in community service, with a $1,500 college scholarship. Last year Nikiski High School graduate, and 2016 Caring for the Kenai winner Marguerite Ruth Cox was recognized for her “Breath for Pets” project that provided animal oxygen masks to local emergency service agencies.
Cox is a former member of the Nikiski High School Boys and Girls Club site but not all nominees must be members, Brown said.
Teachers, parents, coaches and mentors are asked to select outstanding youth in their community every year. Nominations are received during an open period, which ends this year on July 15, and coincides with the annual signup fundraiser, said Hannah Blankenship, associate manager of Corporate Communications for Alaska Communications. Nearly $45,000 has been awarded through the program so far, she said. Winners are announced in August at the Alaska State Fair.
The Summer of Heroes is also an opportunity to reward students for the hard work they have put into improving their communities with the resources available to them, Blankenship said.
Youth are much more likely to succeed if they have positive familial and community supports that can help regulate behavior and provide skills and opportunities for success, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s plan to reduce the likelihood that adolescents will engage in criminal activities. Roughly 25 percent of youth are at risk for engaging in such behaviors, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice.
The Boys and Girls Club of Alaska reaches roughly 10,000 of Alaska’s youth every day, Blankenship said. That results in thousands of kids who have a greater chance of success in school, eating regular meals, building stronger relationships with adult figures and staying out of trouble, she said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.