Feel­ing ‘duped’

Donors un­happy with Sal­va­tion Army’s de­ci­sion to drop Boys and Girls Club. One board mem­ber says do­na­tions will go to fund pri­vate church.

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARA KNAUB @YSMARAKNAUB

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.”

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