Donors unhappy with Salvation Army’s decision to drop Boys and Girls Club. One board member says donations will go to fund private church.
Donors who helped raise money to expand and remodel Yuma’s Boys and Girls Club are feeling “duped” by the Salvation Army for having dropped the affiliation, according to Danny Bryant, a donor and advisory board member who helped raise money for the project.
A total of $1.7 million, including $1.2 million for the construction of a new building and the renovation of the existing building, was raised specifically for the club and if the organization drops the affiliation, taxpayers and donors will have ended up funding a private church, he added.
The Salvation Army announced that it would drop its affiliation with the national club at the end of this year and become a multigenerational Red Shield community center.
Capt. Jeff Breazeale, Yuma corps officer for the Salvation Army, said the decision has been made in response to changing needs within the community, but the after-school programming now being offered through the club will not change.
“The only thing that’s changing is the name. The program that has been running for the last 16 years is going to continue,” Breazeale said.
However, during the city council’s Call to the Public held Nov. 21, Bryant said donors and the advisory board in charge of raising funds to expand the club felt “duped” by the Salvation Army. He called it theft and asked city officials for help in “meeting, guiding us, leading us, taking charge if you can on legal action that would save our Boys and Girls Club for our boys and girls.”
He explained that the advisory board members had been recruited to launch a capital fund campaign to raise $1.2 million at the same time that the city had been asked to release the city-owned property to the Salvation Army for the club’s expansion.
Bryant noted that both the city and the advisory board did their part. “All went well until we found out as an advisory board that the Salvation Army was planning to eliminate their affiliation with the Boys and Girls Club almost immediately after the three-year
pledges had been paid that funded the Boys and Girls Club expansion,” he said. He gave the council members 12 pages of information showing how the fundraising was launched with a dinner in October 2014, a social media campaign asking donors to “make a difference” with contributions and information on ways to give, including how “you, your company or your loved ones can be forever memorialized at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Yuma” through a $1,500 individual or corporate sponsored leaf for the Donor Tree of Life. “Forever must be until the pledges are paid,” Bryant said. The information he passed out also included letters and emails with Salvation Army officials. A letter dated Oct. 3 from the Territorial Headquarters in Long Beach, Calif., to Lt. Col. Kelly Pontsler of the Southwest Division confirmed that the Salvation Army would not be renewing its annual membership with the Boys and Girls Club of America effective Jan. 1. Part of the letter reads: “This decision is based upon the Council’s understanding that non-renewal will in no way reduce the youth services and programs held at the Smith Youth Campus. Specifically, we understand that … B&GCA provides no funding for The Salvation Army’s youth work, that non-renewal will not result in the termination of any employees and that membership in the national organization is not a condition of any local contracts. “We appreciate that, together with other measures you are taking to improve the long-term sustainability of The Salvation Army’s vital ministry in Yuma, this step will strengthen and ultimately expand the Corps’ ability to serve the community.” Bryant said that when the advisory board found out about plans to eliminate the club, “we had staff send a letter to Commissioner (Kenneth) Hodder, the top guy in the West and the guy we had been told had made the decision.” The letter said that the board believed dropping the affiliation “would be in violation to our commitment to our community.” In an Oct. 25 email, Hodder said he would meet with the board when he returned to the country. “When he got back, he said he would not,” Bryant said. “We believe that the community has been duped, we believe the city has been duped. We feel responsible for that sum as an advisory board because we were all in favor of the city letting the Salvation Army have the property to expand and remodel the Boys and Girls Club. “But we are not in favor of letting the Salvation Army take our Boys and Girls Club with the public funds and the city property and turn it into their private church, and we believe that’s what’s happening. This would be a church funded by taxpayer dollars and that’s not something we do,” Bryant added. “So on behalf of the donors who are meeting with stakeholders to try to find out how we can keep this theft from happening, they’ve asked me to come to you, brief you, answer any questions and ask for your help in meeting, guiding us, leading us, taking charge if you can on legal action that would save our Boys and Girls Club for our Boys and Girls.” He urged the city to “participate” because “we believe that the community is at stake. Other nonprofits need to know that when we raise money for a nonprofit, their contributors need to know that it has to be used with donor intent in mind.” Mayor Doug Nicholls pointed out that the council isn’t allowed to respond during Call to the Public, but he noted that the city had been doing legal research and asked City Administrator Greg Wilkinson whether the city would be prepared for that meeting. “Yes, we’ll be ready,” Wilkinson said. Wilkinson later explained that the research involves the Boys and Girls Club and possible actions the city could take. As for the meeting, he noted, “The fundraising committee for Boys and Girls Club wanted to meet with us. Not sure when that is going to be yet.”