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2 clubhouses not closing, officials say

A petition being circulated in Buffalo calls on the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo to keep open one of its oldest facilities, the William C. Baird Clubhouse on Bailey Avenue.

But officials with the nonprofit organization said there are no plans to close that club or the Butler-Mitchell Clubhouse on Massachusetts Avenue, which also has been mentioned by some community members as being potentially targeted for closure.

"These clubs are not closing," said Rebecca Rowe, director of program operations and specialized services.

The agency, which operates a total of five clubhouses in Buffalo, as well as 11 satellite sites in the city and suburbs, is "working diligently" to reduce administrative staff expenses through attrition, in anticipation of possible future funding cuts, Rowe said. It serves about 9,000 youths a year on a budget of about $3.5 million, most of which comes from government grants.

"As of right now, with doing that, we look OK," she said. "We're definitely OK until the end of this fiscal year."

The agency's fiscal year runs through the end of June.

The petition, which bears more than 300 signatures, states that "it would be detrimental to our community to close a facility in an area that already has very little resources for our children."

Tina Lebron drafted the petition after she was asked to submit a letter of support for the clubhouse, which she was told was in danger of being closed.

Lebron has four children who participate in activities at the Baird Clubhouse.

"If they didn't have that place, they would have no place to go to be kids," Lebron said. "They keep 'em going; they keep 'em active."

Local entrepreneur Chris Del Prince, an alumnus of the Butler-Mitchell Clubhouse, said he feared for the future of the facility, which isn't nearly as busy as it once was.

"They haven't had good programming in there in years, and they definitely haven't had enough staff," he said.

Administrators may have to consider reducing hours at clubhouses, if the economy and the state budget crisis worsen in the summer, Rowe said.

She said that closing facilities has not been discussed, although it's unlikely that Baird and Butler-Mitchell would be readily closed, anyway. Both facilities are owned by the Boys & Girls Club, she said, and savings from shutting them down would be minimal.


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