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.