Agreement saves youth center from certain closure

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area is taking over Gresham's PAL Center, putting an end to the possibility that the center would close its doors.

Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said it's his understanding that on Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Police Activities League (PAL) Board of Directors voted to turn its Gresham facility over to the Boys & Girls Club.

“The Boys & Girls Club intends to request a transfer of the PAL lease with the city,” he said. “It is our understanding that Boys & Girls Club would keep the facility open through the transition.”

PAL also agreed to return the Beaverton center to the city of Beaverton, and has canceled its major fundraiser set for Friday, Feb. 22.

Erin Hubert, CEO of the Portland Boys & Girls Clubs, was unable to immediately comment on taking over the Gresham center as she was busy setting up for the organization's huge fundraisers taking place on Feb. 21 and 22.

Spinning the youth centers off to other service providers allows both centers to remain open while enabling PAL to oversee its remaining Portland programs while trying to pay off debt.

The agency has struggled in the past two years under its new executive director, Patricia Day TenEyck, to secure increasingly scarce grants from government agencies and foundations. Its previously successful fundraisers also failed to make much money.

As reported in the Tuesday, Feb. 19, issue of The Outlook, PAL's board members approved using an endowment fund as a reserve for its 2011-12 fiscal year budget, but still operated at a nearly $200,000 deficit, which would have topped $336,000 had the endowment funds not been used.

This week, the board agreed to let the Beaverton youth center return to the city of Beaverton, which used to operate the youth center before the city transferred it to the Portland league in 2006, said board member Geoff Spalding, who represents Beaverton as the city's police chief on PAL's board of directors.

As for parents whose children attend Gresham's PAL Center — which narrowly avoided closing last week — they can finally breathe easy now that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area has agreed to keep the center open.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure the kids are served,” Spalding said. “It's a sad situation.”

Last week, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, PAL announced that without additional financial support, it would close its Gresham youth center at 424 N.E. 172nd Ave. and its administrative office in North Portland on Friday, Feb. 15.

Community donations poured in, raising enough money to keep the Gresham center open until the end of the month.

Parents whose children depend on the center for safe, reliable after-school care, however, remained in the dark.

At a meeting of 20 parents at the center on Wednesday night, the center's two co-directors had no idea that the board was turning the center over to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

They told parents that higher ups were telling them that it will take $100,000 to fund the center through the summer, or roughly $20,000 a month.

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