Written by Cory Twibell: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 15 June 2012 00:00
Hicksville Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Tom Bruno has been through this sort of thing before.
In 2009, Nassau County told Bruno that funds designated for his organization would be halved. Three years later on June 4, Bruno received a similar notification, this time from County Executive Ed Mangano and Youth Bureau Director Maggie Malito.
“Once the county legislature voted down the bond, we started hearing rumors that our funding was in jeopardy. It’s the same kind of a deal [this year]. Basically what it comes down to is that these political people use us as pawns. They throw us under the bus and until they get what they want, this is what happens.” Bruno said.
Bruno drafted a letter and distributed it throughout the Hicksville community, urging residents to call local elected officials – regardless of political affiliation – to support youth organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, which serviced 494 Hicksville teens and kids last year.
Several representatives from youth organizaitons throughout the county have organized a press conference for Monday, June 18 at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Nassau County Executive Building (1550 Franklin Ave., Mineola), prior to the County Legislative Hearing at 1 p.m.
“We’re not there to be telling these guys to vote for a bond issue or not to vote for a bond issue. What our message to these guys is, ‘You’re elected to make sure that the people in your legislatve districts are serviced, and unless something is done, the most vulnerable of your residents in your legislative districts are going to be without services,’” Bruno explained.
Nassau County Legislator and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams said he believes funds from the red light camera inititive were supposed to go toward youth programs but were utilized in different ways.
“Between the hundreds of thousands of dollars in county contracts to his political party boss, his failure to achieve promised savings, and redirecting money from red light cameras, that was intended to fund our youth programs, it is evident that Ed Mangano’s mismanagement has led us into a deep financial crisis and we will not bail him out by approving more excessive borrowing,” Abrahams said.
Inquires to the office of Ed Mangano were not answered as of press time.
The Boys & Girls Club started as the Hicksville Teenage Council in 1972 and throughout the past 40 years, the organization has grown to offer more than just a place for young students to go after school.
“When I started doing this stuff 100 years ago,” Bruno said, “we were basically there to give out bats and balls to kids and just give them something to do. But now, we’re helping people find housing, helping people if they don’t have food. During the holidays last year we probably adoped 15-20 families during Christmas and Thanksgiving. We’re helping kids with their academic endeavors with our tutoring program.”
The executive director explained that the majority of kids enrolled at the club participate in the recreation program, while others receive tutoring for various school subjects, including English as a Second Language (ESL). Though the club doesn’t offer an employment program, Bruno said that the organization found jobs for 15 kids last year.
“Every afternoon we get 30 to 40 kids coming into this program between 2:30 and 5 p.m., which are the high risk hours for these kids when they get in trouble. If this program is not here for these kids every afternoon, where do they go? These 494 kids are not going to have a place to go,” Bruno noted.
The club currently offers a summer program for kids, which runs five days a week from July through August at a rate $50 per person. Registration for the summer program ends Friday, June 22. The school year program, which runs from September 2012 through June 2013 and is $100 per person, may not be available should the club be shut down.
Regarding its staff, the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club has one full-time employee and six part-time workers who would be let go if the organization loses funding.
“They’d all be let go. We can probably continue with the money we have … we can probably continue through the summer. After that I don’t know what’s going to happen. Once we close our doors, it’s not coming back,” Bruno said.
Though funding for the Boys & Girls Club may be risk, Bruno explained that his program wouldn’t be the only one in danger if the bond fails.
“This is not just affecting our agency here. It’s not just the youth services, it’s anyone that’s under the umbrella of discretionary-funded programs, which includes senior citizens, veterans, mental health and youth service agencies.
“It’s just a travesty that it’s coming down to this. It doesn’t have to happen. Unless something drastic happens, we are in trouble. All these agencies are in trouble,” Bruno said.