Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club meets challenges of difficult pandemic year

Decarlos Lynch (left), a 13-year-old eighth grader, gets a math lesson from Caitlyn Murray, the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club's Education Director, in one of the new pandemic era programs utilizing an on-line lesson plan. Masks are mandatory throughout the clubhouse these days. Photo courtesy of Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club

Press release from Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County:

The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club is expanding both its services and its physical facilities on Gallimore Road despite the financial pressure caused by having to cancel two of its major fund-raising events this year.

Club officials say they’re being helped a lot by the community’s steadfast support.

“We’re thankful our community is so caring and involved,” said Executive Director Sarah Rae St.Marie, “so that we’re able to rise above these challenging times.”

“It’s been a rough year,” agreed the club’s Resource Development Director, Kathleen de la Torre, “but we are celebrating… we are serving our kids, and our community is helping us do it.”

The Club, the county’s largest youth organization, serving nearly 700 school children a year, has always run a variety of programs. During the pandemic, though, it is expanding beyond its traditional after-school hours to all-day operations and running special programs to deal with social distancing.

Local residents and businesses recognize the financial hardship the pandemic is causing, said de la Torre, and are boosting their financial support. In addition to that, the club is seeking and getting government grants and special covid-relief funds, some of which are coming from the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Additional support needed

Extra support is especially important, St. Marie says, because the pandemic is running up additional labor costs in the club’s daily operations.

It is now open the expanded hours of 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They are needed because schools are now holding varying sessions and that affects when children are able to go to the club. Before the pandemic, the club’s normal after-school hours were 3 to 7 p.m.

Matching county schools’ schedules and at the same time adhering to pandemic guidelines means fewer children in the clubhouse at one time but keeping it open for the longer day. There are now all-day programs for older children and part-day sessions for younger ones.

Before the pandemic, average daily attendance was 240. So the current attendance of 95 may look like less work but because of the longer hours to accommodate all the children labor costs have increased.

The club’s 40 staffers are working harder but more efficiently than ever, says St.Marie. “The quality of the staff has allowed us to keep up the quality of the programs,” she said. “Our staff right now is the best we’ve had. They’ve stayed positive and flexible and calm.”

Executive Director Sarah Rae St.Marie (left) and Resource Development Director Kathleen de la Torre have set up one of the bright new offices with makeshift furniture until additional desks and cabinets arrive. Photo courtesy of Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club

Amidst it all, construction

In the midst of all the organizational change, the club has just completed a construction project that adds 425 square feet of office space to its 25,000 square-foot clubhouse on Gallimore Road.

The construction idea was born two years ago when staff and the Board of Directors decided they needed to increase security in the building’s entrance lobby to ensure children’s safety. The project was dubbed “Great Futures are Safe” and planning began on walling off the front part of the lobby, usually open to outsiders, to separate it from the rest of the building. That controls access to areas serving the children.

As time went by the project was expanded to create four private rooms on a second floor balcony overlooking the lobby. They are being used for staff offices, plus one-on-one mentoring and tutoring sessions with children and families.

The $170,000 project cost the club just $140,000 because the design, planning and constructionoversight was donated by PLATT, a local architectural and constructionfirm. The late Cindy Platt, whose husband and son are remain principals in the firm, was a founder of the club and it now carries her name. Son Parker Platt is on the club’s Board of Directors and is a past president.

Though the improvements were much needed, even getting them at a cut-rate cost would have put significant stress on the club’s finances. Revenue was hurt this year when the organization’s two biggest fund-raising events, the Bent River Farm Dinner and the Mountain Song Festival, had to be canceled. They normally contribute about 18 per cent of revenue in the organization’s $1.2 million operational budget.

But that money worry was eased substantially when the former executive director, Candice Walsh, now a part-time employee handling grant applications, lined up donations to cover the construction cost. They came from Pisgah Health Foundation, Dogwood Health Trust, The Glass Foundation and the Cannon Foundation.

The need continues

Right now the Boys & Girls Club is embarking on its fall campaign to maintain the flow of support. It is centered around Giving Tuesday, a worldwide charitable movement that sets aside the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving each year to focus on giving back to others as opposed to buying.

In one day, non-profits challenge supporters to raise as much as they can in 24 hours. This is the fifth year the club has participated. A core group of board and community supporters, called “Match Sponsors,” has agreed to match with their own donations the donations of others up to a total of $35,000. Now the Club just needs to raise $35,000 from the community on Giving Tuesday to earn those match donations.

Details on donating to the club during the Giving Tuesday campaign are on the organization’s website,

Last year the Giving Tuesday campaign at the club yielded $50,000. “This year,” said Executive Director St.Marie, “when we need the support more than ever, we’re hoping to surpass that.”

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