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VINELAND – The Boys and Girls Club of Cumberland County finds itself at a difficult crossroad where donations will determine its future path.

This past year, the nonprofit youth organization saw its $500,000 budget slashed almost in half when several agencies that previously offered multi-year grants opted not to renew the agreements, said Chris Volker, the club’s executive director.

They also lost a financial backer when Progresso pulled out of its Elmer Road plant.

While funding plummets, the club is getting an influx of youngsters and teens eager to participate in the programs that include homework help, career development, physical fitness programs and more.

“The need is greater than ever,” Volker told The Daily Journal on Thursday. “We have 100 kids on a waiting list.”

Before the club can move forward, Volker said it needs to shore up its financial foundation.

The club serves about 180 students per day.

Programs are offered in Vineland at the Carl Arthur Center on West Plum Street and the Youth for Change Teen Center on Crystal Avenue.

Last year, the club added a new site at the Family Success Center in Commercial Township.

Volker and the club’s board of directors want to avoid having to close any of their sites. They have made staff cuts and are reviewing programs.

“We lost about $250,000 in funding,” Volker said. “It’s really hurt us, and we are trying make up the funding, but it’s been very challenging and difficult.”

“You are always chasing the dollar and it’s getting harder and harder to do,” he said.

The growing concern prompted the Boys and Girls Club to issue a special appeal.

“We need help from the community or anyone who can support us,” he said. The organization is staffed by two full-time and nearly two-dozen part-time employees.

Volker noted the Boys and Girls Club is “doing really good things in the community,”

“We won the New Jersey State Youth of the Year three out of four years with our small club,” Volker said. “These are young people who probably wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for the scholarships they received.”

The club’s leadership is trying face-to-face pitches with local companies and organizations.

“But even to make an appointment, it's hard to get into someone’s office to talk about the club,” Volker said.

Vicky Miller, a board member, is working on possible fundraisers including spaghetti dinners and a designer bag bingo.

But, she said, the club needs an influx of cash by the end of February.

“Nobody wants this place to close,” Miller said.

 The Boys and Girls Club provides a supervised environment for those aged 5–18.

“A lot of these kids would have no place to go if it weren’t for the club,” Volker said.

Laughter is audible from the teens in the main room.

“They are our kids,” Miller said, noting the club leaders are trying to spare them the worry of the financial situation.

 “It’s our community, it’s our children,” Miller said, appealing for support. “I know people keep getting tired when you keep asking them, but I can’t think of any other way to do it.”

Donations may be sent to the Boys and Girls Club of Cumberland County, 560 Crystal Avenue, Vineland,  NJ, 08360, or through its website, www.vinelandbgc.org.

Deborah M. Marko: dmarko@gannettnj.com: 856-563-5256; Twitter: @dmarko_dj

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