(BEDFORD) - Bedford's Thornton Memorial Boys Club and Limestone Girls Club are in a unique situation - two clubs, one city and limited resources.
Mark Branch, regional service director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, says since the economic downturn in 1908 and 1909 have struggled.
Mike Ricketts, of the Times-Mail reports, having separately chartered boys and girls clubs in the same community is unique, he added.
Branch says Bedford is the only community that has two chartered clubs.
That's something that could change though as the two clubs are exploring a merger.
Each club's board has assigned a four-member committee to explore ways the clubs can work together in the short term and possibly merge to create one club in the long run. A community committee, including one Girls Club board member and four members of the community, are involved in the talks, also. The committees have met twice and are planning a third meeting for next week.
Girls Club president Angie Lewis and Boys Club president Bruce Deckard said the talks are in infancy, but look favorable.
Even with talks of working together and eventually merging, those involved agree that the No. 1 priority currently is raising money.
Lewis said they have reduced operating expenses as much possible and still have their after-school program.
Boys Club Executive Director Jim Jackson said the club has seen a large increase in the number of kids using the club. There, however, hasn't been an increase in funding.
On a daily basis, the club has about 80 kids coming in after school. Numbers are increasing in programs with 482 playing baseball this past summer and 284 playing football.
Jackson said the club has more than $40,000 worth of football equipment.
Girls Club Executive Director Ashli Lovell said the club has experienced strong numbers this fall and several people have recently been added to the club's board.
she believes everyone is trying to work through an agreement and things are moving in a positive direction.
Lewis, in addition to a bad economy, cited loss of community confidence because of a high turnover in club directors and board members as reasons why the club has seen fewer donations.
Lewis wants to get the community "excited" about the club's mission.
A merger between the two clubs could combine the great programs of the Boys Club and the great facilities of the Girls Club, Lewis added.
Jackson said he's glad the clubs are working together and exploring a merger.
But there are many questions that need to be addressed, such as what would be done with the current Boys Club building.
Because the club owns the building and the city owns the land, selling it will require more than posting a for sale sign, Jackson said.
There would be some savings such as combining utilities and insurance, which he estimates would be about $30,000 a year. Jackson worries that those in the community who are contributing $100 to each club annually would give only $100 to one club.
Merging, he added, will combine debt and assets of the two, but most of the clubs' operating expenses will remain the same.
But whatever happens, Jackson said generating money is the top priority for the clubs and he doesn't believe there is any reason to fear the boys club will close.
That's not to say it can't happen.
Branch said three Indiana clubs closed in 2009. The closed clubs in Morgan and Wells counties have re-opened and the club in Anderson is working to re-open.
In additional to local sources, the committees have whatever support from the regional Boys and Girls Club of America they need.
But the regional office supports whatever decision is made locally.
Ultimately Branch said, it will be up to the local clubs to make the decision.
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