Kids Unlimited will fill White City 'void'

Kids Unlimited will step up to provide services and activities for White City youths in the wake of Friday's anticipated shutdown of the area's Boys & Girls Club.

Tom Cole, executive director of the Medford-based Kids Unlimited organization, said he and other community leaders began brainstorming once news hit the community that the White City Boys & Girls Club would close because of budget shortfalls.

"It's a great challenge," Cole said. "We're in the process of looking for funding. None of it makes sense on paper. But it never pencils out on paper for kids in poverty."

Diann Gilbertson, interim executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Rogue Valley, said the club's official closing date is Sept 1.

But it actually will cease operation on Friday, she said.

"We'll be cleaning up the club and getting ready to transfer the building back to the school district," she said.

Gilbertson said the board voted to close White City's club, which had an annual budget of about $225,000, because it had netted a $508,000 loss over the past five years.

"We gave it our best go," Gilbertson said.

The decision came as the Grants Pass-based club deals with ongoing financial issues that led to the resignation of its director earlier this year and the closure of a Shady Cove club in December 2011.

Last minute appeals to the community to save the White City club that serves about 500 children netted only about $200 in donations, Gilbertson said. That money will be refunded, she said.

Cole is no stranger to operating on shoestring budgets — or of making believers out of those who doubted the staying power of the nonprofit, youth-centered organization. Kids Unlimited is entering its 15th year in Medford, he said.

At a recent community meeting in White City, Cole explained Kids Unlimited would differ from the Boys & Girls Club. It's not a drop-in center or a child care center. Kids Unlimited requires participating youths to maintain academic standards to participate in its sports, arts and music programs. And it requires parents to be involved in their children's academic futures, Cole said.

"Our model is different. Our program is more designed to boost academic scores," Cole said. "And you have to have the schools invested, too."

Kids Unlimited's academic emphasis is receiving enthusiastic support from Eagle Point School District teachers, principals and its top administrator, district Superintendent Cynda Rickert said Wednesday.

"There is a void in White City. And Kids Unlimited will be filling that void," Rickert said, noting the organization and school district "share a similar focus on kids."

"We've watched Kids Unlimited," Rickert said. "We've seen its success, we've seen it changing lives. We want those things for the kids in White City."

The club building has been leased by the White City Boys & Girls Club for $1 from the school district. That lease will continue with Kids Unlimited, she said.

Cole said it was "encouraging" that the district believes in Kids Unlimited mission and wants to be involved.

Cole also is counting on grassroots support from people within the community, especially parents who enroll their children in its programs. Cole said he understands many children's families will not be able to participate financially. Scholarships will be available. But parents still must contribute by participation, he said.

"You have to be involved," Cole said. "Your child needs to know you're invested in his education."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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