Seven years after newspapers disclosed that Boys Town, a church-affiliated school for homeless boys, was worth more than $200 million, it is again attracting between $8 million and $9 million each year in contributions.
The school recently received $4.1 million from a will written in 1976 and another $3.2 million from a will drawn in the mid-1920s. But that is still down from the roughly $20 million it was collecting annually before its financial picture was bared in 1972.
A recent book and a newspaper series linking Boys Town to religious charities whose finances have been questioned apparently are having no effect on contributions.
Besides its 1,400-acre campus and school for 400 youngsters, Boys Town has established an institute for child learning disabilities at nearby Creghton University and centers for youth development here, at Stanford University and at Catholic University.
But income continues to exceed expenses. For example, in 1978 -- the lastest year for which complete figures are available -- expenses fell $3 million short of Boy Town's $25.5 million income from donations and investments. Assets at the end of that year were $252 million, liabilities $1.6 million.
The link with religious charities whose finances have gone awry -- the Pauline and Pallottine ordeals -- is unfair, Boys Town says. Boys Town has never been accused or found guilty of illegal activities, they point out.
"I think people want to put money on a ship they think is going to float," said the Rev. Robert Hupp, the director of Boys Town. "This to me is a very strong vote of confidence in the programs we are doing and trying to do."
The contributors, Hupp said, "are getting our literature and they're paying more attention to that than they are the other things."
Hupp became director a year after the 1972 stories about Boys Town's wealth.
"I don't know how we're going to live that down," he said. "Because as long as we are as well known as we are, when you want to get somebody's attention, say something about Boys Town and they'll take another look. They'll paint us with the same paint brush that they paint the worst of them with."
Before the 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning story in the Sun Newspapers, a Boys Town pre-Christmas fund appeal was about as certain as Christmas itself. Afterward, appeals stopped for a time, then resumed.
"We've learned to live with it, I guess," said William Ramsey, director of development. "Our posture is not defensive. Our posture is very positive. While all these things are going on, we've continued to serve children and, as a matter of fact, we're continuing to serve more in many different ways -- and all over the country more than we've ever done," he said.
Boy's Town's youth development centers and the learning disability institute are beginning to attract more and more attention, he said.
Hupp said the emphasis on research does not represent any change from the historic focus of Boys Town.
"I think Boys Town is a response to the needs that we see in society," he said.