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Boys & Girls Club on outs with county

Unless the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta can convince the City of Batesville to restore funding to the local branch, the group may leave the city. Funding for BGC from Panola County is now in jeopardy after a meeting with the supervisors last week.

Without  financial support, nor public backing, from neither the city nor county, the club’s future in Batesville is dim at best. Some civic groups have also cut their contributions to the Batesville club.

David Dallas, who heads the nine-club organization, was at Monday’s meeting of the board of supervisors, along with Alina King, director of the Batesville branch.

King was on the agenda to update the board about club activities and ask the supervisors to again include BGC in the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2020-21.

King said the club has been unable to offer programs at the site (corner of Hwy. 51S and Eureka Rd.) because of the coronavirus pandemic, but food distribution and virtual programming has been made available by the organization. She did not say how many Batesville children have been involved with the virtual outreaches.

Board president Cole Flint (Dist. 5) told King the board did not want to hear updates about club activities, and would not discuss any funding, until after the BGC goes before the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

“The City of Batesville opting out last year, in my opinion, put the nail in the coffin for the Boys and Girls Club. I hope we can find another organization to come in here and service the children of this community,” Flint said.

The BGC building is owned jointly by the county and city and the two boards share maintenance costs. Batesville aldermen last year voted to withhold the funding they have provided the club for years, mostly because they were unhappy to have the Batesville club aligned with the Mississippi Delta clubs.

Aldermen, at the time, said they believed the success of fundraising and local government support of the Batesville club was being used to support those smaller, more rural clubs.

The major blow to the club’s support came when longtime director Dennis Hoskins was replaced during the re-organization. Batesville contributors and elected officials were wary of the merger and loss of autonomy, but were willing to back the move, trusting Hoskins and other locals serving on the board of directors to steer the club and grow its outreach.

Many local supporters of the club, including businesses and civic groups, withdrew their active support from the Batesville BGC when Hoskins was replaced.

Besides Batesville, the other clubs in the Mississippi Delta district are Clarksdale, Greenwood, Grenada, Itta Bena, Jonestown, Lexington, Tunica, and Yazoo City.  Dallas said last year that Batesville could not be operated as an independent club, and that joining the clubs created more opportunities for funding from a broader range of sources.

At last Monday’s meeting Flint told King he appreciated her presentation, but he only wanted to talk with Dallas, making clear the other board members were also displeased with the current layout for the Batesville club.

“We’ve all had complaints, and families are upset because there’s no programs for the kids the way it used to be,” he said.

“Since Boys and Girls came under the Mississippi Delta it’s been the most unorganized and terrible situation we’ve been in with our Boys and Girls Club, hands down,” Flint said. “There are no programs anymore, and when you lost your funding with the City of Batesville everything went down.”

“Until you go back and get (city funding) you aren’t going to get anything from us. We will put a lock on the door of our building. We should have done it last year,” he said. COVID-19 severely limited the scope of the BGC, Flint acknowledged, but said that pre-pandemic participation rates at the club had been falling since Batesville was included with the Delta district.

Dallas and King are expected to be on the agenda at a Batesville city board meeting in the next month, and return to a supervisors’ meeting for more funding discussion at a later date.