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Economy squeezing Boys & Girls Clubs

The Boys & Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County might have to close for several weeks this summer unless it can raise $174,000 by May, officials said Tuesday.

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SANFORD, N.C. — The Boys & Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County might have to close for several weeks this summer unless it can raise $174,000 by May, officials said Tuesday.

About 300 students go to the club on an average day for after-school activities. Some of them said they don't have anyplace else to go if the club shuts down, even temporarily.

"The Boys & Girls Club is my life," said Dareon Norman, a junior at Southern Lee High School who has visited the club regularly since he was 4. "They taught me math, reading, literature, science – so much."

Club Executive Director Bo Hedrick said a lot less teaching and activities will go on this summer because of financial constraints. The club lost five grants worth a combined $313,000 last year, he said.

The club has trimmed operations in recent months, laying off seven staff members and closing one of its three sites. It also has held a few fundraisers, but it still faces a $174,000 shortfall, Hedrick said.

"We may have to make a decision that may result in the club closing for two weeks at the beginning of summer and two weeks at the end of summer,” he said. ”We really don’t want to do that.”

The Boys & Girls Club usually operates 55 hours a week during the summer months.

"If we do have to close for that four-week period of time, we can’t ensure that we know where (local youths) are and what they are doing,” Hedrick said.

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said he worries about juvenile crime escalating this summer if local teens don't have a positive outlet like the Boys & Girls Club.

"Young people tend get in trouble in the summer and after school, and the Boys & Girls Club, they fill that void,” Carter said.

City Councilman Poly Cohen said Sanford is in a financial bind as well and won't be able to fill the void.

"If there is any way to not close it, it ought to be explored and done," Cohen said.

The Boys & Girls Club in Lenoir County suspended operations on Feb. 5 because of a funding shortfall, Executive Director Robert Rogers said. He said he hopes to reopen the club by the first week in April.

Officials with Boys & Girls Clubs in Wake and Durham counties said they are contemplating temporary closings because of financial concerns.

Norman said the Sanford club also kept him out of trouble, and he can't even think about it closing for a month this summer.

"If I weren't in the club, I think I'd be out in the street doing something I'm not supposed to," he said, adding with a sigh, "If it has to close, it's going to be a disaster, a big one."

Anyone wishing to donate to the Boys & Girls Club of Sanford/Lee County can call 919-776-3525 or visit the club's Web site.
Those wishing to contribute to the Boys & Girls Club of Lenoir County can visit that club's Web site.


Erin Hartness, Reporter
Pete James, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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