With the city government’s budgetary process entering its final stages for next year, representatives from the Magnolia Boys and Girls Club were on hand at Monday’s Magnolia City Council gathering to request an extra $15,000 in the city’s annual contribution to the local youth organization.
Although the Boys and Girls Club is an independent nonprofit, Magnolia municipal budgets for years have included a $35,000 annual donation to the organization. The funding, according to Magnolia Alderman Jamie Waller, functions as a contracted community benefit of sorts for vital local youth and after-school activities that otherwise would not exist.
“This is an absolutely essential service that the city needs,” said the Magnolia Ward III representative. “… We’ve got to keep the Boys and Girls Club going.”
But the contribution rate to the organization has remained the same throughout the life of the deal with the city — estimated to be around three decades by some officials — and now, the new executives of the nonprofit are asking the Magnolia City Council for a boost in funding. The extra financial assets, according to Boys and Girls Club directors, would help remedy some long-standing facility, logistical, and program goals at its 1600 Hollensworth Street facility.
“Things are good at the Club but there are also areas where we can improve and areas that we need some help,” said Deneisa Jamerson, executive director of the Magnolia Boys and Girls Club, as she addressed the City Council on Monday.
The local Boys and Girls Club is mostly known for providing youth athletic leagues and recreational activities. According to Chris Ludwig, sports and facilities director at the Club, the organization last year saw nearly 300 youth baseball and softball participants, and this year, as numbers are expected to grow, youth basketball membership is already at 115, while there are well over 100 youth flag football participants at the Boys and Girls Club. Volleyball, according to Ludwig, is also an extremely strong female sport.
The Club, however, offers far more than just evening ballgames and summer sports leagues. The organization’s enrollment programs serve as a free-of-charge, supervised hub for nearly 170 kids every day — and the number is growing. The Boys and Girls Club’s after-school activities include not only recreational activities, but they also offer tutoring, computer learning, life skills, mentoring, and a no-cost, USDA-approved food option for any youth in the community.
“It does not matter if you are a member or not,” said Jamerson. “Any child, from age zero to 18, can walk through our doors during feeding hours and get a meal free of charge.”
Getting to the Boys and Girls Club, though, has sometimes been an issue. Although school children from around the district are carried to East Side Elementary every weekday during the academic year, they are still required to walk hundreds of yards down the street to the Boys and Girls Club facility – no matter the weather conditions.
“We’d love to get a bus so we could pick up the kids to prevent them from having to walk through the rain and the cold,” said Jamerson.
The Boys and Girls Club is also now partnering with Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) as a site for local commodities distributions.
“We had distribution Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week,” Jamerson added. “We had a lot of people come through the Club for that.”
The executive noted that her goal is to grow its CADC and SAU Tech Adult Education Center partnerships and help boost parental life skills as well.
“We would love to be able to offer a place for the community to be able to get everything,” Jamerson added. “Yes, we are a youth service organization, but if we can’t help the whole family – then we can’t help that child.”
Alderman Steve Nipper on Monday commended the Boys and Girls Club for its efforts and noted the importance of good parenting and the lack of basic adult skills among some in Magnolia.
“We hear that these parents need life skills,” said Nipper as he addressed the B&GC executives. “They need to learn how to cook and how to buy food. The public schools did that years ago, but that is needed – badly.”
Facilities at the Boys and Girls Club are also an issue. Although the organization recently wrapped up a capital campaign that raised over $300,000, it still fell short some $200,000 of its half-a-million-dollar goal to reinvigorate and remedy the infrastructure issues at the Hollensworth Street property. According to Jamerson,
the bulk of the campaign funds raised went into new roofing at the main Club building, as well as a much-needed new playing surface in the gymnasium. Once those two key issues were addressed, there was not much left over to focus on other needs.
According to Ludwig, the Boys and Girls Club property still requires a functioning security camera system, drainage fixes at the ballfields, and a solution for the windows and doors that barely keep the weather out, or barely work at all.
“There’s nobody really to do a lot of this work,” he said. “It’s tough to find somebody here local. It’s tough to find carpenters or someone to come in and get the work done. There are just not a lot of them. It’s tough.”
To aid in the Boys and Girls Club’s issues, Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann on Monday offered up as many city services as he could. He suggested that the organization call Magnolia Building Inspector David Nelson for its door and window issues, and Magnolia Police Department Chief Todd Dew for its security camera issues. He also told the Club executives to contact Magnolia Street Department Superintendent Jerry Lewis for its field drainage issues, and offered Deputy City Clerk Judy Hayes for art supply and paper purchasing deals. The city leader lastly suggested that Club officials meet with Magnolia Public Schools Superintendent John Ward for a deal on a school bus to use for picking up kids from East Side Elementary and shuttling them down to the Boys and Girls Club’s facility.
“If the city is partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, and this Council is OK that our employees work with them, then they can continue to do their job, and we can help them get the best price and best bang for their buck,” said the mayor.
Vann also noted that the city can help in the contractor bidding process for skilled laborers.
“You’ll have to run it and you get the final say, but we’ll help you open doors and get you those bids that you can’t get right now,” the city leader added.
The Council also suggested that Boys and Girls Club executives contact Magnolia Schools for deals on computers.
“We can’t help you with all of it, but that’s a good start right there,” Vann said.
Although the services offered to the Boys and Girls Club by the city are substantial, the Magnolia City Council Finance Committee, which is made up of the sitting Council members, will still need to vote whether or not to include the additional $15,000 contribution in the city’s 2022 municipal budget. The funding measure looks to have a decent chance of approval, but Vann cautioned if a $50,000 annual donation is adopted, it may not always be available in years to come and that regular city department budgets will always come first.
“We did cut taxes (this year), and that is my worry,” he said referring to the elimination of the 1 mill city millage that was passed in October. “… The budget will stand (the increase) this year, but it may not be there in years to come.”
No date has been set yet for the final Magnolia City Council Finance Committee meeting, but city officials said Monday that the meeting will take place sometime in December, before its regular meeting on Dec. 27.