White City Boys and Girls Club will close Sept. 1, board says

Less than 24 hours after the news hit the community that the White City Boys and Girls Club was facing a shutdown without an infusion of $100,000 cash, leaders made it official: The club will close Sept. 1.

In a news release sent late Friday afternoon, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley interim Executive Director Diann Gilbertson announced the board had made its final decision.

"It is the board's fiduciary responsibility to direct our resources so that we can serve as many children as possible with the very best programs and facilities," board president Richard Smith said in the release. "Financial realities are such that we cannot operate the (White City club). As a result, we are saddened to close the doors of this club on September 1, 2012."

Earlier in the day, Gilbertson told the Mail Tribune that even if the club had met its need for $100,000 for this year, the board would require it to have a plan for making up the shortfall in the next. Gilbertson said any incoming donations to support the White City club would be placed in an escrow account and kept within the community.

"If the center were not open, we would refund the funds," Gilbertson said.

White City club's budget is about $225,000 annually. But it has netted a $508,000 loss over the past five years, she said. Gilbertson said the club building has been leased for $1 from the Eagle Point School District. And the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley has improved the property, she said.

"The Boys and Girls Club put in a playground and a field out back," she said.

Officials will now focus on finding a year-round safe and fun place for the club's 500 children once the venue closes, Gilbertson said.

"We will work to identify other organizations in the area to transition our members into appropriate alternative programs," Gilbertson said. "The White City branch has been an integral part of our organization; however, with the decline of donations and community support, the board of directors has made the decision to close the White City branch."

Dee Anne Everson, director of United Way of Jackson County, said Gilberton's statement that money raised for White City kids would remain in White City was appropriate.

"Kids in White City need a safe, affordable place to be after school," Everson said. "We need the community, and its partners, to come together to make sure, come September, this is the case."

Gilbertson also addressed other rumors — among them that the Talent Boys and Girls Club was likewise facing the ax, that Jackson County board members had resigned over the closure of the Shady Cove teen center last December and concerns over the placing of the Talent club on a "probationary" status.

The board has lost three of its four Jackson County members in the past few years, Gilbertson said. Curt Burrill of Burrill Real Estate recently resigned. Burrill did not return calls for comment Thursday. The remaining member is vice president Brian Herwig of Providence Medford Medical Center. Herwig could not immediately be reached late Friday.

Gilbertson said the Shady Cove center was for teens only. It was closed in December 2011 after the community failed to meet its promised pledge amounts.

"They had three years' worth of pledges," she said. "They came through on year one. But on year two, they were way too (far behind)."

Talent was placed on probation on Dec. 31, 2011, Gilbertson said. But the club has "far exceeded" its guideline requirements as far as fundraising, she said. With 290 kids attending, Talent has half the enrollment as the White City club. Talent's annual budget is only $130,000, she added.

"It is definitely not closing," Gilbertson said. "We have people in Talent that are stepping up. They realize the need out there."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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