PETERSBURG, AK <p>On a cloudy Monday afternoon, Wyatt King is the only kid at the Petersburg Boys & Girls Club. He is playing video games on one of the television consoles in the room while his mom, Jessica King and Club Director Stephanie Lucas chat. </p>
<p>Lucas says on most afternoons seven or eight kids show up, but it’s been slower since fishing season started. </p>
<p>After a year-long closure, the club reopened in April and Lucas was hired on as director in May. She says she wants to make the Club a positive place for youth to spend time. </p>
<p> “Growing up I had been here a couple times, but I was never really allowed to be here because my parents didn’t think it was a good place for kids. So I thought that I would like to make it a positive place for kids and keep them off the streets.” </p>
<p>Jessica King says she brings her seven-year-old son Wyatt to Boys & Girls because she knows it’s a safe place for him to spend time. </p>
<p> “There’s a good foundation for kids, a good environment and good people for them to be around. Instead of hanging out with teenagers or getting into the drugs and alcohol thing. It’s nice to see that some of the kids that come in here are actually excited that it’s open. And Stephanie’s in charge. Everybody loves Stephanie. It’s a good thing I think. And my son loves it.” </p>
<p>Lucas says the club currently has seventy-four kids enrolled in the program, mostly elementary schoolers. She says she’s hoping for a few more. </p>
<p> “We want to have 100 kids by the end of the year. So just 26 more, that’s what we need to keep this place open, we have to have 100 kids enrolled.” </p>
<p> Alaska Boys & Girls Club interim CEO Alana Humphrey says the club was shuttered last year for reasons other than enrollment. </p>
<p>”We moved to a different location, we had some staff turnover. We’ve now moved back to a location we’re very happy to be in. It’s sometimes just a combination of economics and not being able to hire the right staff is enough to close a program. “</p>
<p>During budget talks earlier this summer city officials expressed disappointment with last year’s closure. Mayor Al Dwyer says the organization received 25 thousand dollars from the city for the fiscal year 2010, even though the Club wasn’t open. </p>
<p> “If we’re going to give money away, it’s public funds and it belongs to the people of the city of Petersburg and they are entitled to know that the money is being spent properly and is accounted for. They gave a very unsatisfactory reply.” </p>
<p>Humphrey says she understands why the City isn’t funding the Club this year. </p>
<p> “Well, basically, as we understand it it’s because we had to be closed so much last year. And you can’t really ask a city to put forth money when we haven’t performed in the way we needed to. The City has always been very supportive in Petersburg and we expect to be back in their budget next year. We’ll be open this year, we have some funding to do that and it’s business as usual going forward. We expect to be open, we expect to be serving kids. There’s a lot of community folks who support us down there, but we totally understand the city’s position as well. </p>
<p>Stephanie Lucas says the Club will have limited hours this summer because of budget shortfalls. The Clubhouse is currently open from 1 to 6 Monday to Friday. Lucas says she would like to be open from 9 to 6 during the summer months, but lacks funding and volunteers. </p>
<p>The Club asks families for a quarterly donation of $10, but doesn’t enforce payment. CEO Alana Humphrey says many parents cannot afford to pay. </p>
<p> “The kids that come to the club, their parents are sometimes working several jobs or are unemployed and we never exclude a child because their parents can’t come up with 40 bucks a year. In the scheme of things $40 per child per year is nothing. We fund the program regardless. The membership fee is just an opportunity for parents to support the program in some way.” </p>
<p>In an email to the City, former employee Earleen Lloyd said only three parents contributed in 2010. </p>
<p>Lucas says she hopes the program can expand in the coming months with support from the community. The Club will be hosting a Grand Opening in late July. </p>