The United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County recently began a 60-day fundraising campaign to garner $300,000 to offset growing financial difficulties.

The 10 clubs serve over 5,000 local youths and receive partial funding from their respective cities. The UBGC offers athletics, education and career development programs to help young people succeed.

According to Santa Barbara UBGC Board President Stephen Rehage, the organization’s fiscal troubles are a symptom of the country’s overall economic decline.

“There are several factors that have affected our organization as well as many other nonprofit organizations that rely on donations and foundation grants,” Rehage said. “People lost their jobs so our individual donations went down.  Businesses were struggling, so business donations went down and because they lost money they did not have as much to award those nonprofits that rely on them for support. One of the results of the economic climate, though, was that we found ourselves serving more families because of the affordability of our services.”

Rehage said an estimated 70 percent of UBGC members qualify for free or reduced lunch in the public school system and roughly half come from single-guardian households.

According to Director of Finance Judy Jennings, the organization requires private donors to support the daily operation costs.

“We provide safe, supervised after school programs for 900-plus student members every day, with services ranging from health and fitness, arts, character development, life skills, leadership to after school tutoring and reading comprehension,” Jennings said in an email. “The programs are funded through the school districts, and the clubhouses are funded by grants, foundations, fundraising events, program fees, rentals and individual contributions.”

Although club membership costs $20 annually, Jennings said the organization spends roughly $700 per year per child to staff and run the clubs.

“There is no other organization that provides year-round after school care for $20 a member,” Jennings said.

Jim Crook, the owner of Milpas Motors and a member of the board of directors, said small donations can make major differences.

“We are changing the world with the youth of America, but we just have a tighter cash flow right now,” Crook said. “Our biggest cost factor is personnel, but when we are short on personnel, less kids can come to the club. We have had a great response so far; we are trying to get these kids off of the streets. We are reaching out to everybody and anybody. Just do not buy a six-pack of beer this weekend, and send that money in instead.”

The UBGC is accepting volunteers and donations. More information is available online at or over the phone at (805) 681-1315.