Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio is scrambling to raise money to keep one of its six clubhouses in operation during the next school year after funding cuts left the nonprofit facing a budget shortfall.

The clubhouse at risk is located in a wing of Candlewood Elementary in Northeast San Antonio. The Boys & Girls Clubs branch provides after-school and other programming to about 250 kids annually from three elementary schools serving low-income students in Judson Independent School District. It has been operating for more than a decade.

“Like a lot of nonprofits here in San Antonio, we have experienced a loss in funding due to a downturn in workplace giving through United Way,” Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Angie Mock said Tuesday. “In the last couple years, we’ve also experienced some pretty significant cuts in federal funding for a program that was primarily serving military-connected kids.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio operates six clubhouses and 38 school-based sites in San Antonio. About 8,000 students participate in the Boys & Girls Clubs’ programs each year.

The nonprofit was one of several entities that received less funding from United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County in the fiscal year starting July 1. Boys & Girls Clubs received less than it asked for and less than it received the previous year. United Way’s contribution in fiscal year 2019 was $390,048, and the proposed contribution in fiscal year 2020 was $245,254.

Last December, United Way announced it raised more than $46 million during its 2018 campaign, less than the previous year’s $48.7 million. Because of this decline in contributions, United Way decreased its total allocations by 8.3 percent for the coming fiscal year.

Together with federal funding cuts, Boys & Girls Clubs faces a gap of about $300,000, the cost to run and operate a year-round after-school program and summer activities for students in Judson ISD at Candlewood, Mock said.

Federal funding cuts related to services for military-connected children took about $500,000 from Boys & Girls Clubs’ budget this year, Mock said. The nonprofit had previously used this money to serve students in the Judson ISD area because a large concentration of families in the district have military ties.

Should Candlewood cease operations, it wouldn’t be the first site to close in recent months. In February, Boys & Girls Clubs closed eight sites at middle and high schools in Judson ISD.

Boys & Girls Clubs has until the end of July to “really figure it out,” Mock said, before notifying anyone of a decision to end programs. Since a KSAT story on the funding cuts aired in early July, some people have reached out offering help, she said, although more is needed.

“The solution is to raise the funds so we don’t have to shutter another site,” Mock said. “That’s really important to families in San Antonio, because they need our programs for their kids. We have had some response already, and we hope by continuing to let the community know about the incredible need that we will garner the support we need.”

Angie Mock, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio.
Angie Mock is CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Without Boys & Girls Clubs in the area, families would have to send their children to more expensive after-school programs or have them spend time unattended at home, Mock said.

“If we are not there, the only option for these families is either for their kids to go home alone via the bus, or maybe be under the care of a slightly older sibling,” Mock said. “They could also participate in the Judson ISD after-school program … but for most of these families, it is very cost-prohibitive.”

Boys & Girls Clubs charges $50 annually for kids to participate in programs. Judson ISD’s after school program, Adventure Club, charges a monthly rate of $140 for kids attending schools with the highest concentration of low-income students.

Nia-real Pina, 23, is one of the students who benefited from Candlewood’s programming. From age 6 to 18, Pina attended Boys & Girls Clubs programs after school, giving her single mother time to work without worrying about paying for more expensive care.

Now Pina is a college student, set to graduate in December from Texas A&M University-Commerce. Every summer since she has been in college, Pina has worked at the Candlewood clubhouse.

“I would be devastated if they closed the clubhouse, because where are these kids going to go?” Pina said. “Parents work hard, and the club fills a gap for those who can’t afford to put them somewhere else.”

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.