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Windfall for kids – Funder ups nonprofit’s ante

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greensboro needed $117,000 for a major facelift at its central facility, and saw little likelihood of raising more than a fraction of that total.

But a call to the Weaver Foundation led to a visit from its executive director, followed by a $90,000 gift – the largest gift the nonprofit has received other than support from the United Way or in a capital campaign.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the amount of that grant, which basically will allow us to do all of that work,” says Gayle Koonce, chair of the clubs’ advisory council.

Capt. Ward Matthews, executive director of the Salvation Army of Greensboro, says the grant has prompted an aggressive effort to secure contributions to allow completion of all maintenance work needed at the clubs’ central facility at 840 Neal St.

“We want to honor the gift by redoubling our efforts,” he says.

The group already has received contributions of floor tiles and carpeting, as well as commitments for contributions of paint and office furniture.

Therence Pickett, associate general counsel for Volvo Trucks North America, and Chris Morris, territory manager for Mohawk Industries, have worked to help secure contributions of materials for the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Commitments so far include $22,000 in floor tiles and carpeting from Carswell Business Systems in Winston-Salem and a pledge from Sherwin-Williams to contribute as much paint as needed. In addition, Swedish Auto Works has donated repair services for vehicles owned by the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Matthews says the Salvation Army delayed needed renovations at the clubs’ central facilities during the 1990s and instead invested in opening six new Boys & Girls Clubs facilities in the city.

During that time, membership grew form 450 to more than 1,700.

“Our central unit was just the worse for wear,” Matthews says.

The gym at the 10,000-square-foot central facility, built in 1962, had broken windows and needed a new floor, new lighting and air-conditioning.

In April, a board member contacted Skip Moore, executive director of the Weaver Foundation.

The foundation, with $25 million in assets, does not accept applications or make grants on a regular funding cycle.

“We consider ourselves pro-active, although we take calls and inquiries,” says Moore.

Programs to support children are a main focus area of the foundation, so when Moore heard from the Boys & Girls Clubs board member, he set up a visit to the central facility.

He initially was told the group was looking for $10,000, but after touring the facility, he concluded that number was too low and asked for an estimate of total costs.

“I went through the estimates and took it to the board and we funded it,” he says.

So the Boys & Girls Clubs’ decision to delay maintenance while increasing the number of clubs will have a happy ending.

“It was a real faith step to do it,” says Matthews of the Salvation Army. “But the need for Boys & Girls Clubs programming around the country is phenomenal. Programming is just a proven, tested way to keep kids off the street and to give them a real hand up in the world.”

The Salvation Army this fall also will begin construction of its Center of Hope, a 116-bed transitional housing facility at 1311 South Elm-Eugene.

The facility will be funded with $3.5 million raised in a 1997 capital campaign that had a goal of $3.1 million.

Once the facility is completed, Matthews says, the Salvation Army has tentative plans to launch a new capital campaign, probably in 2003, to expand the central unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs and build a second unit.

The new capital campaign would have a goal of $3 million to $5 million, he says.

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