RALEIGH, N.C. — When Ralph Capps joined the Raleigh Boys Club as executive director in 1973, it operated in a former church building on Lane Street near downtown Raleigh and had 200 boys as members.
Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County serves 4,100 young people ages six through 18 at seven clubs throughout the county and a summer day camp in Nash County, a membership that has nearly doubled since 2001.
And the group’s annual fund drive, which accounts for 45 percent of the annual budget of just over $3 million, grew to $1.3 million in 2008 from $450,000 five years earlier.
Despite the sinking economy, the group has set a $1.35 million goal for the annual drive it kicked off in February.
Membership fees for each kid cost only $7.50 a year so the fund drive is critical, says Capps, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“Our program really depends on the generosity of the community to make it happen,” he says.
Chaired by Guy Lucas, a financial adviser at Smith Barney who also chairs the Boys & Girls Clubs board, the annual drive counts on all 47 members of its board and on young professionals to make contributions and seek support.
Every board member has made a donation and will seek support from their networks of family, friends and colleagues, says Velaska Wittek, director of development and marketing.
And young professionals such as bankers and lawyers serve as volunteers and create fundraising teams at their offices.
A team at RBC Bank, for example, aims to raise $25,000 at an event it will host in April at the bank’s new headquarters tower in downtown Raleigh.
To provide programs every weekday afternoon plus Saturdays, as well the summer camp, the Boys & Girls Clubs count on a staff of 17 people working full-time and 50 working part-time, plus 150 volunteers.
Each of its seven clubs, including one in Brentwood that opened in 2006 and serves a mainly Latino kids and another near WakeMed that opened in 2007 and serves teens, provides programs in education, leadership development, arts, recreation, and health and life skills.
As soon as they arrive at the Boys & Girls Clubs after getting off school buses that deliver them, children do their homework so they can succeed in school, Lucas says.
Kids then can participate in a broad range of activities, with teens often serving as mentors for younger children.
Capps says the Boys & Girls Clubs also has been talking with the Raleigh Police Department about finding ways to better address the growing problems caused by gangs.
Lucas says supporting the group through volunteering and contributing to the drive is a smart investment because the Boys & Girls Clubs runs a lean operation, spending only 12 percent of its budget on overhead, and because the declining economy increases the need of young people for a safe and constructive place to go after school.
“The kids really need us most right now,” he says. “In this tight economy, these kids aren’t going to go away and the number of kids who need us might increase. Their parents might be unemployed or looking for work.”