Boys and Girls Clubs serve valuable cause

Thumbs up - Boys and Girls Clubs

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County recently held its annual fund-raising breakfast at the Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. More than 525 community members, staff and volunteers attended the 7 a.m. breakfast. When the time came to make a pledge, they dug deep into their pockets. While pledges are still coming in, according to chief executive officer Joe Ingoglia, contributions have hit the $90,000 mark. That’s an incredible success story because it will help the organization serve youngsters throughout Thurston County. The after-school program, which gives youngsters a place to do their homework, have fun and interact with other kids in a positive and enriching environment, served 1,700 youngsters in 2008. What’s especially exciting about the $90,000 in pledges is the fact that local Boys and Girls Club founder Steve Boone and his family (the Stars Foundation) have agreed to match the contributions dollar for dollar. “It is unbelievable,” Ingoglia said. “We feel so grateful that they have chosen to support kids in this community, not just our organization, but other youth programs. We are blessed because they are so vested in this community.” In a real coup, the local club drew Roxanne Spillett, president of the national organization, as the morning’s guest speaker. Nationally, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America serves 4.5 million youngsters through 4,300 clubs. It’s exciting that this community has rallied around such a worthwhile organization.

Thumbs down - Forced closure

The Thurston County Parks and Recreation closed its doors one final time recently after more than 40 years of operation. Some of its programs and services will continue under different departments for the remainder of the year, but their future after that is uncertain. What a shame. But it is understandable. Faced with the need to cut millions from the budget, county commissioners decided to close the department. Michael Welter, the outgoing director has challenged the elected leaders and senior staff members to find a creative way to resurrect the department. “There is a solid foundation,” said Welter. “There are still jewels out there.” He is absolutely right. The good news is that the county’s most popular parks – Burfoot, Frye Cove, Griffin and Kenneydell – will remain open through September. And the trail system will continue to be maintained. Sadly, three-quarters of the county’s recreation programs will be lost. The county will get through this budget crisis. When it does, commissioners must recognize the importance of the county’s park system and find a way to pay for its programs and facilities.

Thumbs down - Litter

Another victim of budget cuts is the Department of Ecology’s litter fund. Fewer youths will be employed this year to pick up trash on state highways. The state budget that takes effect next month cut $4.5 million from litter pickup and prevention programs over the next two years to help close a $9 billion deficit. Statewide, that means about 100 fewer youths will be hired for litter duty this summer. It also means the state won’t be aggressively promoting its “Litter and It Will Hurt” campaign with radio spots or television advertising to deter litterbugs. “We’re going to be picking up less, and not preventing as much, and that will mean more litter,” said Megan Warfield, Ecology’s litter programs coordinator. Her job was eliminated in the new budget. Ecology estimates that more than 12 million pounds of trash are tossed or blown onto interstate, state and county roads each year. With 100 fewer youths hired this year, the corps will work 45 percent fewer hours, according to Steven Williams, a regional litter administrator with Ecology. That means the litter is going to pile up. Visitors will be disgusted by what they see. Of course we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place if people stopped littering — tossing an unbelievable 12 million pounds of trash onto state highways each year.