David Gonzalez has grown up with the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. He begins each day at 7 a.m. at the club, where he practices basketball. He has made friends with the staff members and often helps the younger children in the recreation center.
As of Friday, the 17-year-old, along with all the other children, have to spend their summers elsewhere. Due to a shortage of revenue, the center has had to close for the summer months and is not scheduled to reopen until Aug. 1.
"The main issue is that donations are down significantly. We did not have enough cash on hand to pay our employees," said J.P. Badel, chairman of the board.
Richard Jones, president and CEO of the club, said all the employees were laid off. The 350 children the club serves during the summer months are now being turned away. It makes him feel heartsick, he said.
"You don't know the pain I go through every single day as I see kids come to the club and I have to stand there and say we are closed until Aug. 1," he said.
During the summer, the club provides a swimming program, soccer, social recreation activities, a computer lab for children to keep working on during the summer, and field trips to places away from the club.
The club has also worked with Head Start for the past two summers to provide lunch to children every day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Since the club is closed, that program is also in jeopardy, said Jones.
"It's very emotional for me. I'm hurting deeply as I look at these kids who can't use the facility," he said.
This has been the most difficult year in the 20 years Jones has been in Lodi, he said. He takes the financial difficulties personally and is working on ways to raise what is needed to reopen sooner. He works at the club every day, calling donors and supporters, hoping to raise about $25,000 a month for a total of $70,000. If funding comes through, it will help hire back the six to seven employees needed for the summer, along with supplies and materials.
When Gonzalez first found out the club was closing, he said he was speechless. He didn't believe it.
"I'm not too happy," he said. "It's a good place for kids to go. Now that it's closed down, where are kids going to go? It's devastating."
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