Thursday, May 10, 2007

You want our Money but NOT our Kids!

The Jelleff Club held a community meeting tonight. Colonel Gunn called out the troops and had many of his staff there to help put out their message. Councilpeople Cheh and Evans and Deputy Mayor Neil Alpert basically guaranteed a club would remain as the city would buy the site if necessary.

Marshall Bykofsky was especially effective in getting the truth out there -- this is a ransom to be paid to the parent orgnaization.

The process was flawed (no community involvement), the study was flawed (old data and only looked at kids in a 1 mile radius of the club sites which basically excludes all of Jelleff's population) and tonight was flawed too. It was hard to hear and it was hot. Luckily it did not get too heated, but the passion for the place was evident to all who attended.

Our thanks to the many supporters and familiar faces of parents, residents, coaches, local businesspeople, ANC commissioners, ex Board members, City Collegiate supporters, Stoddert members and representatives, Karate fans, basketball programs and more.

Let's keep fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

We have been asked how you can help. Here is a list of DC politicians you can contact

Mayor Adrian Fenty

DC Council

Gray, Vincent C.
(202) 724-8032
Schwartz, Carol
(202) 724-8105
Catania, David
(202) 724-7772
Mendelson, Phil
(202) 724-8064
Brown, Kwame R.
(202) 724-8174
Graham, Jim
Member–Ward 1
(202) 724-8181
Evans, Jack
Chairman Pro-Tempore–Ward 2
(202) 724-8058
Cheh, Mary
Member–Ward 3
(202) 724-8062
Bowser, Muriel
Member-Elect–Ward 4
(202) 724-8052
Thomas Jr., Harry (Tommy)
Member–Ward 5
(202) 724-8028
Wells, Tommy
Member–Ward 6
(202) 724-8072
Alexander, Yvette M.
Member-Elect–Ward 7
(202) 724-8068
Barry, Marion
Member–Ward 8
(202) 724-8045

Thursday, May 3, 2007

DC Watch Article on Eastern Branch Closing: BGCGW Take the Money and Run!

The Boys and Girls Clubs: Cashing out in the DistrictJim Myers,

District residents, alas, are often so eager to hear their city is on the upswing that they — and local media — will embrace such claims even when they aren’t so. The latest triumph of gentrification mythology comes from the cash-strapped and foundering Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, which wants to right itself financially by selling off its properties in the District. B&GCGW says membership is down at the clubs because changing demographics have produced a shortage of kids “at risk” in the city. So B&GCGW is packing up, cashing in, and heading for the suburbs. The largest and oldest club in the city, Eastern Branch on eastern Capitol Hill (closer to the packed DC Jail than the US Capitol), will be the first to go, with redevelopment plans to follow at the Jelleff Branch in Georgetown, Club #10 in Columbia Heights (currently propped up by a $500,000 District subsidy) and Club #11 in Ward 8.

For the community around Eastern Branch, B&GCGW’s questionable, if not downright bogus claims about changing demographics seem largely an attempt to hide the organization’s deeper failures: Eastern Branch has been a false front for years, and that’s the main reason membership declined there. Staff turnover was constant. Programs that officials touted for Eastern were often, in fact, not offered -- a slippery practice still in evidence at a community forum in March when B&GCGW CEO Will Gunn listed various programs like football and baseball as ongoing, while few in the audience knew they had not been offered at Eastern for years. At the same time, successful programs that B&GCGW also touted, like the Bren-Car Dancers, actually paid monthly rent for use of the Eastern building while B&GCGW counted participants as its own members. For fifteen years or more, little effort was made to attract kids from the community itself. Outreach was nonexistent. Would-be community volunteers were rebuffed, and offers to bring more kids were sometimes greeted with, “We don’t have staffing for that.” Recently, Eastern mainly focused on contract after-school services for charter school students bused in from elsewhere. Few can remember that last time the Eastern pool had water in it, and the club was shut down on Saturdays and Sundays.

However, the most damnable aspect of B&GCGW’s claim about changing demographics are the serious youth issues B&GCGW and its consultants have so skillfully managed to ignore in their zeal about pricey real estate. Drug gang violence centered at 17th and Independence, SE, a block from Eastern Branch, left a trail of dead and wounded across the community in 2005 and 2006. The park across from the Eastern front door remains a gathering point for drug use and sales. Girl gangs are on the rise at Eastern High and Potomac Gardens. A major theme on the newhilleast listserv, right now, involves reports of wilding kids attacking elderly residents and vandalizing property. Youth issues have been the primary focus at every community policing meeting I’ve attended this year, and a recent Barney Circle session with Mayor Fenty was almost totally devoted to citizens’ concerns about kids in trouble. And here’s what B&GCGW is saying: “Let’s take the money and run.”

Mission (Change) Accomplished

Tonight, Colonel Gunn emailed his Board to cover his tracks. We believe this will not be the last time...

He was called to task last night and in our press release for changing the mission of the organization. So he emailed everyone, at almost midnight the following:

Our new mission statement is:

"The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is to help boys and girls of all backgrounds, especially those who need us most, build confidence, develop character and acquire the skills needed to become productive, civic-minded, responsible adults." [emphasis added]

Last year as part of its 100th anniversary BGCA changed its mission from "To inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as responsible and caring citizens" to "To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens." We continue to believe that all children are at-risk--no matter their circumstances--for negative outcomes. Given our limited resources, the term "those who need us most" reflects our need to continue to focus on those youth who are MOST in jeopardy of drug abuse, gangs, early parenthood, high school drop out, etc. because they live in neighborhoods where these outcomes are prevalent. It does so without the potentially stigmatizing language "from disadvantaged circumstances" or "at-risk youth."


We checked the BGCGW web site and sure enough, tonight they updated the mission to reflect "those who need us most." Colonel Gunn surely did not like being told to check the mission of the organization. Perhaps he might have communicated that this change that was made and then we all could have avoided at least that unpleasantness.

In any event, we are pleased about the change. Especially those who need us most is not defined by poverty line data. It is not defined by geographic proximity to a club. Yet those were two of the main factors in the "careful" Program Delivery Task Force study, otherwise known as the "Sham Study."

How about the following as new slogans?

Especially those who need us most. Except kids in gentrified neighborhoods.

Especially those who need us most, unless your family earns too much.

Especially those who need us most, except for the over 6,000 members of Jelleff and Eastern!

Don't be shy, suggest your own!

Egg on Face! Colonel Gunn Receives Tepid Welcome at Georgetown ANC

Last night, Colonel "VPP Puppet" Gunn and Darius Stanton requested to speak at the local Advisory Neighborhood Council meeting. They neglected to inform the Jelleff Board, with whom they publicly claim they wish to cooperate...Luckily, we all have friends in local political places and were notified to be there as well.

Colonel Gunn gave his well prepared song and dance about how they carefully studied all 22 facilities in BGCGW. How they are here to seek input from the community on the redevelopment of Jelleff. How it is a time of scarce resources and they have to make difficult decisions. How he hopes that they will keep or rebuild a club there. How he knows we are all emotional about the issue. How BGCGW have to be where the kids need them most.

No one even clapped. Instead, there were many commissioners who voiced their disappointment. Then, the Jelleff representatives were permitted air time. One spoke about how there are other more creative ways to bring money to the table than selling the assets. Another emphasized all children are at risk. Yet another mentioned the lack of local input and flawed data used to conduct the study and informed the local gathering that this was a total sham and all about selling the property to raise money for the parent organization's deficit and financial woes. Each Jelleff representative received significant applause.

But the most significant thing happened when a Board member went to thank Colonel Gun for his appearance and told him that the crowd is a tough one, and they will not be easily reckoned with -- but Colonel Gunn stared down the Board member and said, slowly and with emphasis, "We will win."

That's all he cares about. Not the kids, just winning. Of course as a military man, that is the way his mind must work. Must win, must not lose this nice $250,000 cushy job.

Gentlemen (and ladies), roll your sleeves up as the fight has just begun.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Press Release! Jelleff Board Opposes Sale

May 1, 2007


Decision by Parent Organization Flawed and Short Sighted

The Jelleff Boys and Girls Club Board unanimously approved the following resolution Monday night: "The Board of Directors of the Jelleff Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington unequivocally opposes the sale of the Jelleff and Eastern Branch facilities. The Board further expresses a lack of confidence in the management skills and judgment of the executive staff and the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington (BGCGW). Finally, the Jelleff Board condemns the process by which the sales decision was reached as secretive, flawed and excluding community involvement."

This resolution is the first step in fighting what is viewed as a short sighted decision by BGCGW to redevelop four DC facilities. Two of these clubs, Police Boys and Girls Clubhouses #10 in Columbia Heights) and #11 (in SE), will be redeveloped with a commitment to include a club, but the Jelleff and Eastern branches have been slated simply for sale to the highest bidder. This decision was reached due to a continued deficit at the parent organization, BGCGW, despite the fact that Jelleff is the only club in DC which meets its budget and does not act as a financial drain on BGCGW.

Moreover, a recent commitment to invest $4.25 million by Venture Philanthropy Partners has resulted in an apparent change of the mission of the organization. This change is elaborated by focusing exclusively on at-risk children, as defined by those living within a mile of the club and at 200% of the poverty line. BGCGW has said "a special focus on youth living in low income families." This would not be a “special focus”, but an exclusive one.

The Jelleff Board feels that all children are at risk and should be welcomed to participate in Boys and Girls Club programs. We should not need to check tax returns at the front door to see if a child qualifies, but rather be a haven for any child who wants to participate no matter what his or her race, economic standing, religion or creed. In fact, Jelleff is one of the few diverse clubs in the BGCGW portfolio and serves as a great melting pot in what is otherwise often a still segregated city.

The Eastern Branch also suffers from the perception that a gentrifying neighborhood will not still need a boys and girls club. This perception reflects both BGCGW’s anti-diversity attitude as well as the defects in its decision making process. As an example of their flawed methodology, the study conducted by consultants and a task force of BGCGW only looked at the youth population residing within a one mile radius of a club. Thus, most of the youth served by Jelleff and many potential Eastern members were not even counted.

Jelleff, located at 3265 S Street in Upper Georgetown, has been an integral part of the community since 1931. Currently, the club serves over 6,000 children, far more than any other Boys and Girls Club in the District or surrounding suburbs. Jelleff also provides valuable recreational asset in an area of the city where athletic fields and gym space are scarce. The Club currently serves over 900 area children from all over the region in its well known winter basketball league, 5,000 DC Stoddert Soccer players, 300 boys and girls members of the Washington Youth Lacrosse league, youth from the DC Shotokan Karate Club, as well as conducting Saturday night public roller skating, numerous camps and clinics, and educational and other after school programs. In addition, Jelleff is the home of the City Collegiate Public Charter School. These partnerships indicate the importance of Jelleff as a community resource and show what an adverse impact a sale of the club would have on the community.

In lieu of the annual fundraising reception scheduled for the following week, on May 10th at 7 pm in the gym at the club the Jelleff Board will be holding an emergency community meeting and open forum. If you would like to support Jelleff, please attend the community meeting and contact the club at (202) 462-1317 or email:

Recent Will Gunn BGCGW Statement Complete "Spin"

Marc Fisher wrote a damning article of the short sighted decision in the Washington Post. Will Gunn, CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and puppet to Venture Philanthropy Partners wrote this "Letter to the Editor." We will go through point by point and show how his spin does not add up to using resources efficiently or helping those most in need or however he and his cronies try to make this seem like a good decision. Our comments are in italics:

Marc Fisher’s April 29 column did not paint an accurate picture of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

You are right. He did not refer to the mismanagement, lack of non profit experience by executive staff, problems in retaining senior staff, the secretive process, the flawed study or the fact that there are Members of the Boys and Girls Club Board who are up in arms as well.

The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is to help boys and girls of all backgrounds, especially those who need us most, build confidence, develop character and acquire the skills needed to become productive, civic-minded, responsible adults.

How do you determine who needs you most? It cannot be measured by those ONLY below the poverty line, or those ONLY living within a one mile radius of a club. If we read the real mission (the link is provided) correctly -- it says help boys and girls of ALL backgrounds. This new mission adds "those who need us the most."

While we would like to be there for every child in this city and our region, the reality is that we cannot. We have to put our resources to work where they will go furthest, and that is exactly what the recommendations we announced last week are intended to achieve.

We will agree to disagree, Will. The recommendations for the sale of the four clubs is intended to fill your coffers, so you can use the cash to repay the deficits you have accumulated and pay off the credit line which has happened under your watch. What do you think will happen to your resources when you no longer have the support Jelleff provides well beyond Jelleff?

We spent the last six months doing a careful review of all of our 22 clubs. We examined population data, club attendance records, club operations and we spoke with staff and board members to understand as much about each club and neighborhood as possible. The review told us that at in many neighborhoods, like the ones near Eastern Branch on Capitol Hill and Jelleff Branch in Georgetown, there are fewer children from low-income households than were once there.

Ha! Careful review is all spin and very little truth. And as if the number of low income households indicates how many children NEED the clubs. Why did you purposefully choose to ignore any stakeholder consultation beforehand? Why did you ignore recommendations made by both the local Board of Directors of Eastern and Jelleff in the final recommendations? How can you call this a careful review of the clubs when the methodology was never agreed upon and the study was only meant to justify the conclusions you and your buddies already had?

It also told us there are places in the District and other parts of our region where there are thousands of children who could use our services, but where we have no presence.

Yes, but this has nothing to do with selling out the rug from Eastern and Jelleff.

Mr. Fisher implied that we were abandoning Washington, D.C. in favor of the suburbs. That is simply untrue. In fact, since merging with Metropolitan Police Boys & Girls Clubhouses in 2003 and opening a state of the art club (the FBR Branch at THE ARC in Ward 8) in 2005 we have more than doubled our presence in the city.

Perhaps you should have thought about the operating costs of FBR before opening it! And simply because you merged with the Police clubs does not mean that the new strategy going forward is not what Marc Fisher claims. The recommendations from your sham study indicate resources reallocated to the suburbs. Plain and simple.

Our region’s children face profound challenges such as pressures to join gangs, teenage pregnancy, and drug abuse.

Yes! Our children at Eastern and Jelleff face these same pressures!

We do our best to confront these challenges by providing children with positive alternatives and our services are needed more than ever. As our region changes and our neighborhoods change, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington must change to continue to serve those youth who need us most in the best way possible.

So let's pull out of two successful programs just because the price of housing is going up in these neighborhoods. Have you even been to Eastern or Jelleff during the day, and seen the kids who are there using the clubs? No, you sit in your comfy Silver Spring office with your $250,000 salary and take meetings with Venture Philanthropy Partners. Try being with the kids Will. Try telling them, as your neighborhood improves, Boys and Girls Clubs will leave you! You refused to do that in Columbia Heights as you at least committed to keep a club there. The devil is in the details however and who knows what kind of club.

Sometimes that means making extremely difficult decisions like closing a club like the Eastern Branch – and transporting every youth who currently attends this club to nearby clubs.

As if parents really want their kids on a bus. This is a non workable solution but makes you think that you are offering something to the parents and community affected. It is not what the parents or the kids want. They told you this during Eastern community meetings!

However difficult these changes may be, we cannot limit ourselves to a 20th century model. Here and now, there is too much at stake: the lives and futures of our kids.

That's right and that's why we will not bury our heads in the sand and allow you to continue to be at the helm of an organization where you don't belong and where you have mismanged it into the ground. There is too much at stake and we hope that the overwhelming outcry from the community, the local political scene and the kids themselves will cause you to rethink your show me the money model and contemplate how to become a much better service provider, a much more efficient (and competent) organization and one which does not turn its back on kids it is currently serving.