After more than two decades helping kids across Owensboro, a local boys and girls club will shut down.
Board members at the Cliff Hagan Boys & Girls Club voted to close the C. Martel Wightman Unit on East 19th Street. It comes after weeks of looking for nearly $100,000 to keep it open.
The club will close May 22nd.
“It’s a very, very tough decision,” says Executive Director Steve Winkler. A tough decision made after no easy solution could be found.
“We’ve got two people who were youth of the year who are now on our board, and who grew up in the housing, and came through the club. It was tough on them,” he says.
Despite putting their heads together to find money needed to stay open, club officials couldn’t find one, leading to the closure of the Wightman Unit after 25 years in business.
“We’ve lost some United Way money over the years, and when you run the biggest operation like we do, with some 2,000 kids and 3 facilities, when a major cut hits you like that, it’s hard to overcome it in a short period of time,” says Winkler.
Winkler says federal budget changes didn’t allow the Housing Authority of Owensboro, who the club partnered with at Wightman, to pay for social programming. Winkler says they were able to make some budget cuts to close the gap, but couldn’t make up the shortfall. The Mike Horn Unit will be open to those who went to Wightman.
“That’s going to be, sometimes, an obstacle for families because a lot of them might not have transportation,” Winkler says. “We’ll be offering scholarships for those kids, hopefully, that we can retain some of them.”
Officials with the Housing Authority of Owensboro say to help kids Wightman served, they are looking in to holding programs for kids this upcoming summer.