Georgetown Boys and Girls Club claims DC mayor defunded program in proposed budget

Gabrielle Webster, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, speaks to kids at a community conference on Wednesday.(WTOP/Mike Murillo)

A local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America says it’s at risk of stopping the work it does to help D.C. kids after funding it has received from the city for decades has been struck from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed 2025 budget.

“We need the funds to support 1,500+ kids a day. This is imperative that we get young people into the clubs, into our programming, into a safe place that’s like a second home to many of our kids,” said Gabrielle Webster, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.

Webster said the program — known as the Jelleff Community Center Club — has been in the Ward 2 community for 72 years. But as the city prepares to spend $28 million to renovate the city-owned community center, the $610,000 allotted in years past to the club, according to Webster, disappeared from the budget.

The organization said without the funding, the program would be forced to close as early as October with no guarantee the funding will return once the community center’s renovations are complete.

Hoping to save the program, those who are a part of it gathered at the rec center to demonstrate. Some children held signs that read “Save Jelleff.”

“We really believe that this was an oversight on the part of the city, and we hope that they take this opportunity to correct that oversight,” said Michael McDonald, vice president of impact and innovation for Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

Hoping to save the program, those who are a part of the Jelleff Community Center gathered at the rec center to demonstrate on Wednesday. Some children held signs that read “Save Jelleff.” (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

‘Please don’t take away our second home’

Ely Haddox-Rossiter, 14, has been attending the club for eight years and said it has helped him become a better speaker as well as learn more about tech, as he aims for a career in engineering.

“From everybody at the Jelleff Boys and Girl’s Club, I want to say: please don’t take away our second home,” Haddox-Rossiter said.

His mother, Akeia Haddox-Rossiter, agreed.

“The fact that this is a question of funding and that it’s not even on the radar to fund this club for two years makes me think that there is some out-of-touch-ness happening here. To not understand what the families need, to not understand what it means to raise children who are impacting the world, to not understand what this club means to our communities,” Akeia Haddox-Rossiter said.

WTOP reached out to the mayor’s office for a statement on the move. A spokesperson for the Deputy Mayor for Education responded to the request Thursday, highlighting plans to move forward with programming in the future.

“The District is excited to invest in a total modernization of Jelleff Recreation Center, during which the center will be closed,” the spokesperson said. “Once the center re-opens, the District looks forward to continuing programming at the center.”

Lindsey Walton, with D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson’s office, said the chairman is working on finalizing his proposed budget.

“While the Mayor may have proposed funding cuts to the Boys and Girls Club, the Chairman’s full proposed budget changes have not been introduced yet, nor voted on by the Council,” Walton said.

When asked if funding for the organization’s Ward 2 location is in the budget, Walton said no final decisions have been made.

At the demonstration, Linn Groft, the legislative director for Council member Brooke Pinto, said Pinto plans to push for the money to be added back to the budget.

“We really think of the work that the Boys and Girls Club does here at Jelleff as a gold star standard for the kind of programing that we should be offering for our students,” Groft said.

For Emory Haddox-Rossiter, 15, she said defunding the program would be a big loss for her and other students in the community.

“I don’t know where I would be if I did not have Jelleff Boys and Girls Club every single day for the last 10 years of my life,” Emory Haddox-Rossiter said.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up