Budget cuts leave parents scrambling for after-school program

Boys & Girls Club in Fort Myers forced to close
Posted at 11:35 PM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 23:36:04-04

Parents are scrambling to find an after-school program for their children after learning the North Fort Myers Boys & Girls Club is being forced to close it's doors. 

The Boys & Girls Club Suncoast Unit was forced to shutdown for the 2017-2018 school year due to budget cuts from the Florida Department of Education. 

"I was very shocked and very concerned about how we're going to get the message out to these parents in such a short notice," said Don Armstrong, a former Lee County School board member . "What's going to happen to these kids," he added. 

He relies on the program for his two middle school-aged children. 

"To see it closed is heartbreaking and to see how it is going to affect these families, someone needs to do something about it," said Armstrong. 

In Lee County 1 in 3 children lives in poverty, according to statistics from the Boys & Girls Club Florida Alliance. The Boys & Girls Club Suncoast is one of five facilities in Lee County, but it is the only one located on the campus of a Title-1 school.

The program provided safe supervision during the time of day when kids are most likely to be affected by crime.

"We know by statistics that juvenile crime is at its highest between 3 and 7 p.m. we know a lot can be determined about that child's future from how they spend that free time," said Shannon Lane, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Lee County. 

According to Lane, the closure is the result of 3 consecutive years of budget cuts from the state which has amounted to roughly $56,000.  

"We tried to absorb it and now those children who need us the very most are feeling that impact," said Shannon Lane.

"We have families out there; they're single moms and dads, what are they going to do. they can't afford it and they probably don't have the option where their employer will give them a little bit of leniency," said Don Armstrong.

However, there's still hope This GoFundMe account aims to reopen the club. Some worry if it doesn't work, the community could pay the price.

"We're going to feel this in multiple ways for generations," said Lane.