I made several phone calls and trips to the Boys and Girls Club before I learned it was closed. I was surprised to find it had been closed at least for some time as there was no sign on the door. In talking to a prominent board member, this member said the gangs had taken over the club and there was not enough money to hire a security guard.
This member also expressed displeasure with the City Council in not helping fund the club. Certain areas of this community have been in a long time process of being taken over by the gangs. In 1994, Tim Cassidy asked me to conduct a study of what the Park District could do to build more usage at Proctor Center. When I visited Peoria High to talk to students and ask them if they visited Proctor one kid in a group of a half dozen said no. I asked why not and he put his finger to his head similating a pistol and said "bang, bang".
Since I once served on the B & G Club Board, I am somewhat qualified to state my opinion. We had 19 board members and 4 attended my last meeting. The president was 20 minutes late and did not know the agenda. On August 2, 1993, I wrote to McFarland Bragg, President of the Board of Directors a letter as follows:
“Please accept this letter as my resignation from the Board of Directors to be effective upon receipt. In my short tenure on the board I discerned the direction of the club was not the direction it needed to go in order to provide the proper needs of the area it serves, and still survive financially. The current board of directors is relatively inactive, thereby failing to make the positive changes and give the director of this club the proper guidance so badly needed.
Thank you for the opportunity, ect.”
I also quote from a document prepared by the United Way Observations panel of the B & G Club: “Failure to take advantage of training offered to leadership. Some staff do not even have a high school degree. Low numbers were being served. Building closed or limited programs offered during school vacations, holidays and Saturdays. Lack of a program plan with appropriate goals to support the mission, ect.,” These were just part of 20 problems the HOIUW found with the board and management.
I have never understood why bodies like the B & G Club serving youth were closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Does someone know how much the director makes and has her salary been cut since what was originally the “Home Office” is closed? The Southside library was partially doomed to failure when it closed every week day at 5 PM and was never open during the weekends when working adults could visit.
Too much weak leadership over the years has caused the B & G Club to get in the situation it is in. Poor leadership is a trademark of much of the Southside of Peoria and that is why it is in sorry shape. Ssome community leaders tell me they do not believe in the “broken window” theory and that we should make exceptions for the poor and the dysfunctional families. These are usually “families” with an incompetent mother and without a caring father; they are fathered, all right, that is a major part of the problem. Why don’t people see that young people especially, take advantage of everything that is overlooked by those in the community who say “oh, they are just kids”? Surely people know that too many of these kids grow up to put this community in the mess it is in. I don’t paint all Peoria with the same brush but look at crime statistics, unwed mothers, dropouts, gang members, lack of participation, people with no work ethic and welfare people for more accurate demographics.
We have a spreading blight on this city that no TIF Zone (legal and illegal immigrants will need to be available to do much of the work) will overcome this epidemic. Those in denial by calling attention to all the good things we had expected of them or are wringing their hands or throwing money at the problem are not helping the situation. As pointed out by a fellow blogger, boards and administrations are doing a lot of things right but we should EXPECT THAT given the money and time spent on trying to get it right.
When people brag to you about how many boards they serve on, you might ask if they attend all the meetings and what they have accomplished. (If you wonder about my attendance records on the County Board, I missed 11 out of 171 regular committee or board meeting from 1/1/04-6/30/06 and that included being absent during recovery from a triple by-pass.) Its been said by even the JS that the County Board runs a lot more smoothly than it did before I came on the board in 2000.) Not bragging, one of you “Anonymous’s”; just the facts.
I recently dropped out of the Southwest Kiwanis Club because I could not serve the club the way I expected myself to serve. Many citizens taking up name space on rosters and plaques, would do well to get out of the way and just let those really capable and interested, (and take the credit, if they so desire) do the things necessary to make organizations like the Boys and Girls Club succeed.
I know there are dedicated Boys an Girls Club members and that the problems of the B & G Club is not unique to parts of our community. These board members, City Council people and our public safety people can not correct these problems without more funding and help from the entire community. Some in the community could help by not buying drugs from these gang members, cutting off a major source of their income and making the area less attractive to gang bangers from other areas like Chicago.
When I opened this blog site, I described it as a “politically incorrect” blog site. It is and will remain so. I write as a concerned citizen living in the City of Peoria. Also, I’m not required reading but what I do write will remain on the record long after I am gone.
Thanks for reading me, agree or not.
Since I sometimes send this document as an email; find me at http://widmer-peoria-watch.blogspot.com