The Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County is scrambling to secure alternative funding options in the wake of an announcement last week that a federal grant has been cut effective at the end of the year.

The Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County is scrambling to secure alternative funding options in the wake of an announcement last week that a federal grant has been cut effective at the end of the year.

“The budget cut will affect us in a huge way because we are losing more than $50,000 in funding and that amounts to a little under one third of our annual budget,” said club President Scott Robinson. “We are currently looking at options to improve our fundraising campaign. The main thing is that we are planning to maintain what we have been doing. We will find a way to replace the money because we are committed to serving kids the way we do now.”

Phil Harris, assistant director of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, discussed the issue at the Arkansas House and Senate committees on public health, welfare and labor Tuesday.

According to Harris, a $6.2 million supplemental federal grant his agency had been receiving annually had not been renewed. Because of the cut, TANF has stopped funding its Community Investment Initiative, through which it partnered with community- and faith-based organizations, including the Arkansas Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, which is no longer receiving the $2 million per year that TANF had been providing.

Jim Britt, manager of the Boys and Girls Club in Pine Bluff said that the club provides after school tutorial programs to children ranging in age from 5 up to 18.

“We serve 86 kids at our club and serve nearly 250 more students in the Watson Chapel School District by providing snacks for their after school programs,” Britt said. “There are also about 30 other kids here at our club that we feed even though they are not part of the program. These kids show up hungry and I’m not going to turn any of them away.”

Britt said that the club provides transportation for children to and from its after school programs.

Robinson is hopeful that donors will help to fill in the budget shortfall caused by the federal grant cut.

“We are trying to get the word out to some of our donors about what is going on and hope to round up some more funding that way,” Robinson said. “The funding we receive is based upon the number of kids that we serve and we are hoping to expand our program by partnering with other organizations that are already funded.”

“With the club we have always wanted to reach as many kids as possible in positive ways,” Robinson said. “There is a huge need for us in the community so going smaller is not an option. We need to go bigger. Last semester 58 out of the 82 kids we serve at Townsend Park made the honor roll and a significant number of those kids came to us as D and F students. If we can do this with 82, just imagine what we could do with 800 or 1,000.”

Club Chief Professional Officer Leslie Peters is also focused on the need to secure alternative funding so that the club’s programs can continue uninterrupted.

“It is going to be a really tough year for us,” Peters said. “We are taking a multi-prong approach as we move forward, including more collaborations with other programs and more avenues of funding. The biggest cuts will affect staff salaries and everybody is going to take a pay cut, including myself.”

“Our commitment is to maintain what we have here and our challenge is to find a way to get the message out to the masses that every little bit helps,” Peters said. “We are asking that people consider donating $2.80 a month. If we can get 5,000 donors to accept this challenge then we will be able to make it through difficult financial times such as these.”

“We have always prided ourselves on how much we can do with so little,” Peters said. “A donation of $2.80 per month is not a lot to ask. Hopefully people understand that every little bit helps. A yearly fee for a kid in our program is $25. It’s just about the community pulling together. This can help us make it through future cutbacks.”

Peters said that the club has between nine and 11 staff members throughout the year and another 80 volunteers.

“UAPB is one of the reasons we have been able to have the impact that we have,” Peters said. “They have helped with staff augmentation and teacher resources. They have been a phenomenal partner.”

“We’ll make it,” Peters said. “We won’t close our doors and will continue to provide kids with a safe place to go Monday through Friday.”

For more information, visit the club’s website at www.boysgirlsclubjc.org .

Arkansas News Bureau writer John Lyon contributed to this article.