The Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri will receive $3.52 million during the next five years for horticulture and environmental awareness programs through a pair of federal grants.
The club has secured two 21st Century Community Learning Center grants which will provide a total of $800,000 in each of the next three years, then $640,000 in the fourth year and $480,000 in the final year. Boys & Girls Clubs Executive Director Brett Barth-Fagan said the funds are “restricted dollars” that must be used for the programs specified in the grant applications.
“We wouldn’t have gotten the funding if we weren’t doing these programs,” he said.
The programs focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — or STEM — programming through horticulture and environmental awareness. Barth-Fagan said the club took “a highly creative approach to the STEM component,” noting that “everybody is taking the robotics approach, as it applies to technology and engineering.”
Instead, his group of eight to 10 staff members brainstormed the concepts and came up with “a very creative, unique curriculum,” he said. Another selling point was creating a relationship with the Sheltered Workshop at the Center for Human Services.
The club will purchase starter plants from the CHS Bloomin’ Gardens greenhouse and other products from the center’s fabrication plant — products that will be designed by Boys & Girls Clubs members.
“We are excited about it,” Barth-Fagan said of the cooperative agreement. “It is a win-win for both organizations.”
In a news release, the club noted that in 2007, it received six 21st Century Community Learning Center grants totaling $1.8 million; that funding expired last year. The new grants, while welcome, provide $1 million per year less than the initial 21st CCLC awards. The club instituted fees at all of its sites this year to help cover the funding gap.
“Are we going to see relief on fees? The answer to that is no,” Barth-Fagan said. The $800,000 from the grants is only 40 percent of the club’s more than $2 million annual budget, “and we have to have support for our additional pieces.”
Completing the grant applications, each of which was more than 230 pages, took effort equivalent to two 40-hour employees for six consecutive weeks.
“It was very, very intensive,” Barth-Fagan said.
In the news release, the director focused on the quest for continued funding and the club’s mission.
“These grants are fantastic news for our organization, but there is still much work that needs to be done,” he said. “While we continue to work toward sustainability for our organization, we never lose sight of the most important component of why we exist. That is our kids.”