Campaign helps offer youngsters opportunities

Camry Duncan said joining the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville not only gave her something to do after school but also offers her opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise.

Monday, the 12-year-old joined 10 other club members for a field trip to Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis to see the musical, “A Christmas Carol.”

“Normally, I don’t get to go to these things. It’s my first time to a fancy restaurant,” said the Noblesville Middle School seventh-grader.

“It’s not something everyone could afford,” said Abigail Hill, the club’s program director for ages 12 and younger. That’s why the club’s ladies auxiliary sponsors the field trip annually. “It’s a cultural experience. A lot of kids have never been to a play.”

Serving youth, while offering an array of opportunities to grow, is the mission of the Boys & Girls Club, in the second week of its annual fundraising campaign, which runs through February.

Camry likes playing dodge ball, basketball and soccer in the club’s gymnasium. She uses the club library and gets homework help from a club tutor. “It’s like my second home here. . . . It’s taught me to be the person I am,” she said.

The club, which offers a safe haven for youths 6-18, needs funds to pay for all of these activities.

Ron Willcut, the club’s executive director, credits consistent contributions from longtime donors as one reason the fundraising campaign is going well. “So far, I’ve been impressed,” he said.

Since the campaign kicked off Dec. 15, nearly $20,000 has been raised. The 2008-09 campaign raised about $60,000, while the 2007-08 campaign raised about $85,000.

Donors have contributed $62,490 this year through November to the club, not including the annual campaign, Willcut said.

“Charitable giving is down some, but we’re still having a good year, and very thankful to the donors,” he said.

The club’s 30th annual H.H. Dittbrenner Golf Classic in June and the club’s annual campaign will be the two main fundraising efforts for the operating fund in 2010 for the 58-year-old club.

This year’s golf outing raised more than $32,000 in net profit, and Willcut said, “I would think that it’s one of the best years they’ve ever had.”

The 2009 operating expenses budget is $900,000, and would be about the same in 2010.

United Way allocated $129,600 for the club for 2009 and again for 2010, a 10 percent decrease from the $144,000 allocated in 2008.

Despite the 10 percent cut, Willcut said, “The club didn’t make any changes. However, we do keep a close eye. . . . It’s a tough economic climate out there. . . . We’re thankful for any gifts.”

The club’s 25th annual auxiliary auction in February will raise funds for club programs that in the past have included canoes and a fireplace at the new shelter at Camp Crosser, an 18-acre camp the club owns along White River; remodeling of the crafts room at the club, 1448 Conner St.; a television and gaming system; and a personal address system.

The 2009 auction raised about $45,000, said Shannon Gigante, who is co-organizing the 2010 auction, set for Feb. 6 at Harbour Trees Golf Club.

Overall, the outlook is bright for 2010. “We’re always looking to provide more services,” Willcut said. Among those are spring camping and fall camping opportunities at Camp Crosser. “There’s a lot of things out there transpiring,” he said.

The annual membership fee increased from $30 to $40 in September. Willcut said it was the first increase in several years. “Still, no child is turned away for financial reasons,” he said.

The actual cost of providing club programs and activities is $350 per member, Willcut said. Hardship memberships are available through private donations.

He said the club raised about $7,000 in donations in the spring for 83 camp scholarships at Camp Crosser, where fees are $85 per week.

A capital projects grant from United Way built a picnic pavilion in 2007 at Camp Crosser. The pavilion cost about $240,000, of which $30,000 was donated by the club’s auxiliary to build a fireplace, Willcut said.

This year, about 450 campers attended Camp Crosser. The camp cost about $600,000 when the club bought it in 2006. The Crosser Family Foundation contributed 50 percent of the funds, and club funds and United Way paid for the rest.

The organization became debt-free in April 2008, “which is a tremendous relief,” Willcut said. “We are very, very fortunate. We are very blessed.”

Willcut said two topics the Board of Directors will focus on during January’s annual meeting would be long-term giving and developing a more healthy endowment fund.

“It’s a time for strategic planning. We get to that meeting and start plotting the future,” he said. “We’ll be planning for the next three to five years, see where we are, compared to the past, and what the future may hold.

“We’ve grown quite a bit.”

From 2002 to 2005, the club raised more than $4 million through individual donors and United Way matching funds for capital improvements that included the 2004 renovations to the Conner Street facility and construction of the club’s Community Center, 150 N. 17th St.

Throughout all of the changes, Willcut said, “the main thing is that the mission of the Boys & Girls Club has always been there. . . . We’re going to service youth.

“I run into people all the time who used to belong to the club when it was above Kirk Hardware, and they tell me it was the greatest experience they ever had.”

In 2008, 2,706 members and more than 20,000 nonmembers used the facilities, he said.

Olivia Morales, 9, Noblesville, who’s been a member since she was old enough to join, said there isn’t anyplace else she’d rather be after school and during holiday break.

She uses the computer lab, does arts and crafts, plays pool in the game room and learned how to make pumpkin pie in cooking class.

“You can have fun there,” she said.

Additional Facts
To donate
The Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville, 1448 Conner St., is open during Noblesville Schools’ Christmas vacation, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Jan. 4, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

To donate to the annual fundraising campaign, which runs through February, call (317) 773-4372 or go online at www.boysandgirlsclubofnoblesville.org