Community Center Woes

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The oldest community center in Winnebago County is struggling to keep its doors open.

From gym time to play time, the Booker Washington Center keeps Rockford’s Southwest Community busy.

It’s been helping give people in the community a safe haven for nearly 100 years. Nicole Reed volunteers for the summer kids program. She says the organization helps keep local students out of trouble.

“It’s better than them being out on the streets all day,” Nicole said. “That’s the good thing about the summer program, where those kids have a place where they know they can go.”

Dozens of kids may no longer have a place to go, if the center doesn’t find the tens of thousands of dollars needed to stay open. The center’s executive director, Robert King says multiple problems, including incomplete paperwork, lack of state funding and the economic downfall have contributed to a $100,000 deficit. King says he and more than five other employees were laid off this week, some he says haven’t been paid since March.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we keep our doors open and we’d appreciate any help anyone is able to give us.”

Organizers say they will now meet with financial consultants to figure out the community center’s future.

Booker Washington has also lost funding from many partners. Paul Logli of the United Ways says they gave $22,000 to the center every year, but that will end Monday. Logli says that’s because the proper paperwork wasn’t filed to show what that money was used for.

Right now, Booker Washington doesn’t have enough money to fund the anti-violence Ceasefire program or pay its workers, so keeping that program depends on whether Booker Washington receives more funding.

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