Nonprofit, city discuss dispute over club building
Lawsuit filed last month against Salvation Army
Attorneys representing the Salvation Army and the city of Yuma are in discussions regarding the dispute over the nonprofit’s decision to turn the local Boys and Girls Club it had been operating into an allages community center.
Capt. Jeff Breazeale, Yuma area coordinator for the Salvation Army, said this week that “The Salvation Army’s legal counsel has connected with the legal representatives of the City of Yuma and conversations are ongoing.
“In the interim, The Salvation Army’s youth center has been open and serving 70-75 kids after school every day, as it always has, offering help with homework, fun and stimulating activities, and a safe place to be with their friends while their parents are finishing up their work day.”
He said the Salvation Army has not begun offering adult or teen activities out of the Boys and Girls Club building at 1100 S. 13th Ave., which had been scheduled to become a Red Shield Community Center once its affiliation with the Boys and Girls Club of America ended Jan. 1.
He said the number of
enrolled children has not changed from the previously reported number of approximately 110, and an average of 70 to 75 of them attend on any given day.
City of Yuma spokesman Dave Nash said the city would have no comment on pending litigation.
The city filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army last month, following the nonprofit’s announcement in October it would cut ties with the Boys and Girls Club after operating the Yuma branch for 16 years, in a building donated by the city when the nonprofit took it over.
“The donation of the public building and the public property was intended for a public use, specifically a secular youth program,” Mayor Doug Nicholls said in a Dec. 14 press conference.
According to its website, Boys and Girls Club of America began more than 150 years ago and provides youths with activities and mentors during the after-school hours, serving about 4 million children at 4,300 club locations.
The Salvation Army’s announcement drew complaints from donors and former supporters, including a majority of advisory board members, who said they were not given any say in the decision and quit in response.
The Salvation Army held a capital fundraising campaign in 2014-15, raising about $1.6 million to add a new building to the Boys and Girls Club campus, while upgrading the old one. Construction was completed in 2016.
Local supporters said the fundraising drive was presented as an expansion of the Boys and Girls Club, with no indication it could become something else in the future.
A group of them retained local lawyer Barry Olsen to represent them, claiming the change violated the donors’ intent. Danny Bryant, a former advisory board member who is in the group, said Olsen has sent notice that it does intend to sue if the situation isn’t rectified.
Bryant said changes to the Salvation Army’s Yuma website and Facebook pages, including listing the Boys and Girls Club building’s address as its own, have not been encouraging for him.
“Seems that the evidence is becoming more and more clear that the Salvation Army’s desire was to build a church” with the money raised in the recent campaign, he said.
Both of the Salvation Army’s thrift stores in the Yuma area were closed last year, along with a few other unprofitable stores around the country.
Breazeale said this week, “In recent months, there has been a lot of discussion about the building. Our priority is not a structure, but kids and families in our community, and we’ll continue serving them no matter what. The Salvation Army is here to serve God and the people He loves in Yuma.”