, Port Arthur, Texas

September 19, 2013

Boys and Girls Club mired in red tape; forced to close temporarily

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur’s Boys and Girls Club is closing temporarily, but has plans to reopen at the first of the year.

Parents will have two weeks to find another location for their children before the temporary closing date of Sept. 27.

Major Nancy Fuller of the Port Arthur branch of the Salvation Army said the organization, at 3145 25th St., has been in the process of obtaining its state child care license, but was unable to do so because the facility did not meet requirements of the licensing program.

Fuller said the local Boys and Girls Club had to withdraw its license application due to discrepancies discovered in the program when inspected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services child care licensing division.

Those discrepancies ranged anywhere from incomplete paperwork to allowing children enrolled in the program to attend the Salvation Army’s vacation Bible school without performing necessary background checks on VBS volunteers.

Though the same church group from Dallas has led the Salvation Army’s vacation Bible school for the past five years, Fuller said, children from the Boys and Girls Club could not attend unless the background checks had been performed and the guest workers fingerprinted.

While the group was not able to obtain a license, it does not have to shut down permanently.

Because of the discrepancies, the Boys and Girls Club could have either withdrawn its license application with the option to reapply at a later date or the state could have denied the application and not allowed another application process to begin for five years.  

The group could also elect to operate under an exempt licensing status, which is what they did.

Though the exempt status is much less restrictive, there is a cap of $7.50 per week for the fee for each child attending the afterschool program.

While in the process of making application for the state license, the organization was charging $25 a week per child, she said.

“This is going to strain us financially, but we are going to step out on faith,” Fuller said.

During the months the organization is closed, Fuller said, organizers will look for ways to raise money, possibly providing individuals or organizations to sponsor a child’s afterschool and summer day camp fees.

The Boys and Girls Club will reopen the first day of school after the Christmas break.

In the meantime, the facility will not lie idle.

Beginning Sept. 23, the Salvation Army will sponsor very basic computer courses for adults, particularly seniors, each Monday. Class is limited to 10 students on a first-come-first-served basis to those who register by 10 a.m.

Fuller said church groups are also considering using the Boys and Girls facilities for Friday teen nights.

“The facilities are just not going to sit over there and go to waste by any means. We will put them to use,” Fuller said.

Anyone who would like to make a donation, or for more information, call 409-983-2229.