BY MARCY SHORTUSE - The Friends of Boca Grande Community Center have announced that they will continue the children’s programs they have already been hosting, including the after-school program and the Munchkins Program.
The board said that administrators Angela Colosimo (after-school care) and Laquata Meade (the Munchkins teacher) are very much a part of the future of these Friends programs.
After a Tuesday, March 6 meeting with parents that gave no clear answers as to the programs’ futures, a press release was issued earlier this week which said, “Friends is committed to the children of Boca Grande and will continue to preserve and improve the current youth programs.”
At a private meeting held on Tuesday, March 13 with Friends Chairman Pat Chapman, Executive Director Marta Howell and Friends board members Dee Wheeler and Jack Damioli, it was determined that it was counterproductive to focus on all the rumors that were circulating. Instead, the real focus should be on the importance of the programs within the community, and finding more funding, even if it’s just on a temporary basis.
At the March 13 meeting Damioli said that more funding is very important at this time, and that donations to the Friends’ for these programs could be earmarked for the children’s programs. Chapman and Howell also explained that the programs combined currently take in $53,000 in revenue from the families involved, and approximately $2,000 in donations. The total annual salary and benefit expenses for the three staff members of the programs are $97,000 and supplies cost, on yearly average, $4,300.
A declining number of enrolled children, left the Friends last year with an approximate $49,000 deficit on the programs. Howell said she found out that in 2010 that the youth programs were running at almost an $83,000 deficit.
“Working with the Friends staff and board to identify as many cost-saving measures as possible, we have cut that deficit to $49,000 in 2011,” she said. “We are as lean as we can possibly be in terms of staffing, and so I have been investigating other collaborative ideas to try and reduce costs.”
She continued, “We have worked to provide these programs as cost-effectively as we can, while keeping the costs low for parents. We have tried not to ask for help, but the economic downturn has taken its toll on our enrollment. This year for the first time, the Munchkin program does not have a full enrollment. The after-school program is under 30 children. We need some help from the community to get these programs through this lean time.”
Wheeler, an honorary Friends board member and one of the creators of the children’s programs, attended the March 6 proceedings but remained quiet. After the March 13 meeting with the Beacon and Friends board members she said, “I am so happy that our youth programs will continue the way they are.”
The maximum number of students that the after-school program can take is approximately 70. There are currently less than 30 enrolled. The Munchkin Program maximum number of students is 12, and there are currently eight enrolled.
The Munchkins are not affiliated with the Boca Grande Child Care Center, which is located next to the Catholic Church, but many students from the Munchkin Program go to the childcare center after the preschool lets out at noon.
For more information on how you can help the children’s programs offered by Friends, contact their office at 964-0827.
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