Club battles city
BRIDGEPORT Not so long ago, they were the city's three shining jewels. They were the Boys' Clubs Middle Street, which was downtown off of Main Street, North End and Orcutt on the East Side.
Today, only Orcutt now the Orcutt Boys Girls Club remains fully open, but it's fighting for its very existence. Its hours are limited and its staff is small. According to , the club's executive director since 1994, maybe 75 to 100 kids a day play inside Orcutt's walls, a far cry from the numbers that used to swarm the place up to 80 years ago. and closes at 8. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Orcutt relies on federal grants and donations from local organizations to keep its doors open, and making ends meet is a constant battle. Some praise Bruno for keeping the club open for almost 20 years under difficult circumstances, but others say the finger of blame for Orcutt's financial plight points directly at the club.
There is also a belief that the North End facility has closed its doors, leaving hundreds of kids without a place to go. The club, still loosely referred to as the Boys' Club, has filed a countersuit against the city claiming the building is being used and, therefore, the city can't use a revert clause to reclaim the facility. Although the North End building appears closed, which was the city's contention in the original suit, Bruno says the club is active on a marginal basis.
At the crux of the matter is the $2.8 million Bruno believes the owes the Boys' facility renovations. The state has been unwilling to give the club the money, with Bruno's management habits among the reasons, sources say. The city, meanwhile, is trying to buy the North End facility and apparently place the more progressive Cardinal in charge of reviving it and running it. And Bruno's detractors are casting an angry eye at him, questioning why he would be part of a
suit that would only hurt the kids he said he's
Many feel there is a lack of initiative at the Boys' Club to work to raise funds, while others also speak of Bruno's brash attitude and unwillingness to compromise as key factors why so many local businesses refuse to help. Still others point to Bruno's board of directors all hard working men, solid city men, many with police or fire department backgrounds who grew up in the shadow of the Boys' Club, but without the financial or business background needed to solicit money.
"We're doing everything we can consistent with our resources and the infrastructure," said the 66 year old Bruno, who attended the in the 1950s and '60s and learned to box there. "It has been and continues to be the desire of the Boys Girls Club to serve kids.
"This building has been opened since 1930. We've never closed. You look at the amenities of the building, there's a modern surfaced gym, there's a swimming pool. Those things get used all year long. We serve neighborhood kids. That's our mission."
One would think the mission would Latrell Sprewell 2XL Jersey be to keep the club thriving through fundraisers and other events designed to keep the facility in the city spotlight. However, the club has not done the kind of things that, for example, the Shehan Center has in recent years to solicit money. In 2013, the Shehan Center will host a total of 11 fundraisers, raising over $500,000 so the organization can continue to run smoothly.
"We have totally renovated this building, starting with the roof," Shehan Center executive director said. "This building was built in 1882, it's the old Armory. We put the new (basketball) floor in back in '95 and we've gutted the entire downstairs. Three years ago, we replaced the entire blacktop (outside)."
According to O'Connor, the Shehan Center has been "in the black" for the past 19 years and has over $1.7 million in the bank. In addition, the center has undergone major renovations, including adding two new adult locker rooms, modernizing the weight room, adding a darkroom for photography and a kitchen for cooking classes, along with fixing up the arts and crafts room and game room.
When O'Connor took over in December of 1992, the Shehan Center was $300,000 in debt. But within a year and a half, things had dramatically changed.
"We instituted term limits for board members and my message to the board was: Get money or you're going to be asked to go away.'" O'Connor said. "I went after people who could bring money in. I went after all the bankers. So we have People's, TD, Bank of America, Webster all on our board. I went after well known companies in the area that understood the mission of kids. Because for a lot of kids, the Shehan Center (which opened in 1962) was their Boys' Club."
On the other hand, the Orcutt club has lost over $77,000 from 2008 12, according to 990 Forms (Organizations exempt from Income Tax) obtained from , who is representing the club in its suit against the city, said that much of that shortfall comes from building depreciation and other issues, not from a officialgoldenstatewarriors.com/WOMENS-MITCH-RICHMOND-JERSEY.html lack of cash flow.
Bruno who said he took his Boys' Club position at least 15 years after the Middle Street facility closed said the club has held a golf tournament for the last two years, along with having an awards banquet for the first time in May, but these events weren't fundraisers. A charity donation event, sponsored through the , has generated $12,000 for the Boys' Club.
But it still begs the question: Why hasn't the club done more to generate funds? Several members of the club's board of directors, including , and , all agreed http://www.eaglewoodfolk.com/contacts in a recent meeting that more fundraising events could be beneficial to the club's financial health.
"The Boys' Club needs someone to take things on and get things done," said one community leader, who did not wish to be identified. "Ken will say that he doesn't officialgoldenstatewarriors.com/WOMENS-LATRELL-SPREWELL-JERSEY.html get any support . well, he doesn't know how to do any of that. He's relying on government funding and there's always ebbs and flows with government funding. There's no consistent cash flow."
According to Bruno, the Orcutt Club is written into the State of Connecticut's bill for $94,000 a year for both fiscal years 2013 14 and 2014 15. He said that Warnaco has donated an additional $50,000 annually for the past several years and that the club applies for additional federal programs through the national office. However, in February, Warnaco was bought by the
"We've managed to meet our responsibilities in a very difficult environment," said Bruno, who claims he hasn't taken a salary from the Boys' Club since September of 2012.
Bruno said when he took his Boys' Club position, the club was "technically bankrupt." Rather than file for bankruptcy, Bruno said "we met with all our creditors and through sacrifice of all, we raised sufficient revenues to reopen both (North End and Orcutt and) pay off our debts in full.
Bruno also said he went without salary at that point to help the cause. And he offered support for his board members, whom he claims are very involved in fundraising.
"Each board member pledges to give/get a dollar figure to assist us in meeting our obligations as a member in good standing of the Mitch Richmond 2XL Jersey national organization," Bruno said.