Community leaders and former employees are working with a local philanthropist to reopen the Portland neighborhood Boys and Girls Club, which The Salvation Army was forced to close in 2011.
Director of River City Drum Corps Ed White has partnered with Scott Harris, who leads a group called the Andy Maupin Portland Youth Development Center, to raise funds and reopen the facilities. The group is still in early discussions, but they have the support of Gill Holland, who wants to help revitalize the Portland neighborhood.
White says he wants The Salvation Army to hand the building over for free and says much of the success of the Portland Boys and Girls Clubs program was because of gifted donations from the community.
“We feel there should be some negotiation in the price of this building based on the gifts that were given to The Salvation Army to create this space,” White says.
David Yarmuth, director of community relations for the Salvation Army in Louisville, wouldn’t talk about any current or previous offers, but hinted that it would be unlikely to give away the building for free.
“In an economy where donations are down, government funding is down….if we were to give the building away, it obviously doesn’t help the people that we’re trying to help, which is the underserved,” he says.
Yarmuth confirms The Salvation Army did receive a letter of interest from a former employee—which White and Harris both are—but says anyone interested in purchasing the building must go through the normal negotiating process with The Salvation Army’s commercial realtor Trio Commercial Property Group.
Calls to the property group were not returned.
Holland’s plan is to negotiate a price with The Salvation Army, White says. What that price or partnership with Holland may look like in the future is still unclear and White says he wants to remain quiet until they finish negotiations.
Holland—who is also a board member for Louisville Public Media—won’t say how much financial support he would provide, in part because there has been no official offer made on the building. Estimates based on previous appraisals say it could be $325,000, Holland and White both say.
Last year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana—which operates several clubs in the region—was successful in reopening the Parkland and Newburg clubs that were closed by The Salvation Army due to costs.
Yarmuth says the issue of reopening the Portland club will likely not be community demand, but whether any group can maintain funding the programming costs.
“Regardless of whoever purchases the property, if it ultimately serves the needs of the Portland community and the youth in that community then that’s a good thing,” he says.
White says he would like to have the Portland club open as soon as possible, but says it would likely take at least six months from when negotiations end.
The plan now, he says, is to begin raising $200,000 that will be used to operate the club. So far, the group has raised around $4,000 in a quiet campaign. Further, he plans to reach out to larger organizations like Metro United Way for help.
A community meeting is scheduled next Monday to speak about the plan. Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton is expected to attend as is White and Harris.