PITTSBURG -- The bike rack is empty at the East County Boys & Girls Club, a sure sign that the club that has served youths for almost seven decades has ceased operations because of financial hits that included the loss of a six-figure school district contract and declining community support.
The club ceased its fee-based after-school tutoring, recreation and arts activities for 50 or so students last week. The $90-a-month fee provided access to all of the programs offered at the Stoneman Avenue clubhouse.
"The cards were stacked against us. There was a lack of community involvement," said the club's interim executive director, Tuong Truong.
Truong, who is the chief executive officer of the Diablo Valley Boys and Girls Club, was asked to step in to run the East County club in November by the national organization following the departure of former Executive Director Tamika Bennett. The club still has an active charter, he said.
Earlier this month, the club's nonprofit status was revoked as a result of not filing income tax returns for three years. Those returns were filed in January, Truong added.
Although the club is closing, it is seeking to regain its nonprofit status so that donors will be able to claim charitable deductions. The closure also means that seven employees will lose their jobs April 30, he said.
There are currently no plans to reopen the club, according to a statement by Joel Moreno, president of the board of directors.
"The board of directors will continue to meet to review our next steps. We are all truly saddened and disappointed that we were unable to obtain the support of key community members," he said.
"It's a sad day for the community for an institution of the Boys & Girls Club to go away. Through the decades, it has helped so many youngsters -- myself included -- with its many programs and mentors," Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover said in an email.
"In the past few years, some of us in the community have been trying to keep the club alive, seeking donations and funders. It's too bad the national organization couldn't help us at this time. I -- and the club's supporters -- will continue to work with the national organization to find a way to revive the Boys & Girls Club."
In February 2013, the club sent a letter to past benefactors, along with parents of children who use the club's programs, alerting them that the club's future was in jeopardy after a cutback in donations.
But a far bigger problem emerged when the club lost a $419,320 Pittsburg Unified School District contract for the 2013-14 school year to provide free before- and after-school activities at junior high schools to another Pittsburg nonprofit, STS Academy. School board trustees gave the contract, which represented 90 percent of the club's funding, to STS Academy, because the club was not meeting attendance goals.
Jim Craft, executive director of STS Academy, said he had approached the club about having the club's mentoring program for girls included in the junior high after-school programs. But the club wanted students transported to the Stoneman Avenue clubhouse, he said.
"The (mentoring) program would be for only 40 minutes. It did not seem logical (to) transport those students for 40 minutes and then bring them back. ... It was a deal-breaker.
"I have tried to reach out, and I feel that there are so many things that could have been done on a collaborative basis that may have helped them."
Truong said those approaches apparently fell through the cracks when the club was without an executive director for several months.
The East County Boys & Girls Club has operated in Pittsburg since 1947, first at a location on West Eight Street off Montezuma Street. When fire destroyed that building in 1985, community donations made it possible to build the current facility that opened in 1992.
Five years ago, the club amended a lease agreement with Pittsburg Unified and transferred ownership of the Stoneman building to the district for its adult education center. The district then leased back the clubhouse at a nominal rate to the club.
It is unclear whether a new tenant will replace the club. Enrique Palacios, the district's associate superintendent for business services, had no comment this week on what would become of the space. Greg Osorio, a community activist and minister at Souljahs House in Pittsburg, would like see the space used to provide a sports-focused youth center.
"There is nothing for youth in the city unless they participate in organized sports," he said.
Board members will hold a meeting with parents at 6:30 p.m. Monday to answer questions at the club, located at 1001 Stoneman Ave.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.