The leader of Prince William County's Boys & Girls Club accused local United Way officials of betraying their commitment to help fund a new facility in Manassas by not giving the group any money from last year's local United Way fund drive.
"By completely eliminating any funding to the Boys & Girls Club you have sent a strong message to all [Prince William] residents. The message is that the development and guidance of the children is not a priority at all," wrote Vincent Borello, area executive director of the club.
In a letter sent to Anne Terrell, chairwoman of the Prince William United Way, and copied to local political leaders, Borello said it was unfair that most of the money raised went to only four agencies in the county and that the decision will place "many kids back into areas of at risk."
"It was also the United Way who told the City of Manassas that a large amount of what is collected in Manassas will support the Boys & Girls Club. My board of directors and I find it very disturbing that we held up our end of the deal and the word of the United Way was meaningless. That's a tragedy," he said in the July letter.
Local United Way officials said Tuesday that they have funded the club's Manassas facility to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in previous years and that they would have loved to do so again but couldn't because last year's fundraising was a bust.
The amount available to local organizations plummeted from $927,000 three years ago to $294,249 in 2003, said Lucy S. Beauchamp, the director of the Prince William United Way. The requests for funds were more than 21/2 times what was available.
"He's hurt that he didn't get funding. I understand that," Beauchamp said Tuesday. "Prince William United Way has been very supportive of the Manassas club, and I've been begging for it for years."
Beauchamp said that although the local club did not receive any money from the charity's Prince William Community Services Fund, it would probably receive some money from its parent agency, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, which also receives United Way funding.
The Community Services Fund is supported by individuals who request that their donations go to Prince William charities and organizations. It is distributed to groups in the county through competitive grants. The proposals are reviewed and scored by a team of 19 volunteers.
"I would have loved for the Boys & Girls Club to get money. But there were limited dollars, and their request was not of the caliber of the others," Beauchamp said. "I wish their proposal had been stronger."
She said money is not allocated by organization but to individual programs. The proposals that were awarded grants were for child care, emergency assistance and other programs.
Borello said the club had asked for $100,000 for this year to fund Smart Moves, an anti-drug, anti-drinking anti-smoking and abstinence program. "United Ways are funding it across the country," he said.
Borello said the club will try to raise money for the program through other means. He said the club is launching its own fundraising effort.
He said his letter expressed how disappointed he was in the United Way. "It is almost as if the United Way was a family member," he said.
The new Manassas club in Jennie Dean Park will cost about $2.7 million. It will include three gymnasiums, classrooms, a computer lab, a library, arts and crafts rooms, a kiln, a baking kitchen, a photography lab, a wrestling room and space for meetings and tutoring.
Last year, Borello estimated that the new center would serve 1,500 to 2,000 youths a day and have a membership of about 4,000. He said he expects that to double after a few years.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington has large centers in Dumfries and Dale City. The current club program in Manassas, at nearby Jennie Dean Elementary School, serves about 200 youths a day.
The new center could open as early as next month, said Manassas City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes, who also serves on the United Way board.
Hughes said if there is any blame to go around it should fall on former executives at the United Way of the National Capital Area, who were embroiled in a financial scandal two years ago. In May, the former chief executive of the capital region, Oral Suer, was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding the charity of almost $500,000.
"They gutted the [United Way's] credibility and cost it millions," Hughes said. "The many nonprofits in the area rely on the Community Services Fund for much of their funding. I don't know if the United Way has recovered yet and don't know what this year's campaign will be."