Non­profit, city dis­cuss dis­pute over club build­ing

Law­suit filed last month against Sal­va­tion Army

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY BLAKE HER­ZOG @BLAKEHERZOG

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.”

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