“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Petaluma’s Boys and Girls Club, one of this community’s most valued non-profit organizations since its formation in 1950, is stabilized. Following a tumultuous year of leadership shakeups, clubhouse closures, serious fiscal problems and the arrest of an employee charged with child endangerment and possessing child pornography, the organization is under new leadership and the outlook, for now, is cautiously optimistic.

That’s good news for the 1,600 predominately low income children ages 6 to 17 in Petaluma who are served though a strong portfolio of educational and skill-building programs. In late August, the organization’s board of directors signed an agreement with Santa Rosa-based Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County which has temporarily assumed operations and management of the clubs and programs in Petaluma and Marin County. Thankfully, and despite the closure of two clubhouses earlier this year, services to local children have remained constant.

Jennifer Weiss, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, told the Argus-Courier that until the local club’s board determines the future course of the organization, she’s prepared to ensure the club keeps doing what it does best: helping kids develop the skills and abilities to become caring, responsible and productive citizens. Weiss, who previously served as CEO of the Petaluma clubs from 2003 to 2007, has a strong track record of visionary leadership. Along with longtime Petaluma board member Mike Tomasini, she anticipates that a long-term plan for the future of the clubs will be finalized by the end of the year. One likelihood is that the Petaluma club will eventually consolidate with the Central Sonoma County Club.

In light of the new leadership, the Petaluma City Council recently approved a reallocation of the $80,000 in funding for the organization that was initially authorized earlier this year. The nonprofit has seen declining city funding since the 2011 dissolution of the Petaluma’s redevelopment agency, which once funneled as much as $3 million annually to affordable housing projects and nonprofits. Since the end of redevelopment, which captured tax dollars for community projects, those funds have continued to dwindle, with annual allotments dipping from $300,000 to just $80,000 this year.

Petaluma’s young people need the Boys & Girls Club. Statistics show that the highest concentration of crimes reported between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. involve young people. At that time of day, youth are most likely to be involved in a crime or be the victim of a crime. The Boys & Girls Club is open when schools get out providing a safe, fun and enriching environment.

Because most of the children served do not get proper nutrition at home, the Petaluma club provided more than 70,000 meals in 2015 to local kids, ensuring that a large percentage were eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Now, the club could use your support. To donate, go to bgccsc.org, or mail your check to the Boys and Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, 1400 North Dutton, Ste. 14, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Be sure to note that your donation is to benefit kids served by the Petaluma Boys & Girls Club.