Winnetka Youth Organization seeks hike in park funding
Students listen as Crocodile Children performs at the Winnetka Youth Organization and New Trier's Amnesty Club at their annual Jamnesty show back in February. The WYO has seen funding dramatically reduced. I David Banks~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:55AM
WINNETKA — The Winnetka Youth Organization is asking the Winnetka Park District to raise the group’s funding by more than 75 percent to help plug a hole left by the loss of funding from the local United Way.
The park district contributed $8,500 to the youth agency during the last fiscal year. The agency is asking the park district to boost that amount to $15,000 to cover the rent paid to the Winnetka Community House.
Executive Director Liz Fales said the higher allocation would be in line with what the Wilmette Warming House and Glencoe Youth Services receive from their respective park districts.
“We used to get a large portion of our budget from the United Way,” Fales told park commissioners last week. “But then (United Way) said, We are going to focus on high risk, high need (areas) and focus only on that,” said Fales. “Many organizations in Winnetka and New Trier Township have lost United Way funding altogether. It has nothing to do with our performance.”
The group’s most significant funder, the New Trier Township Commission on Youth, recently increased WYO’s funding from $43,000 to $48,000 to help offset the loss of $20,000 in funds from the United Way. The youth organization also receives a significant portion of its funding from individual contributors.
The group operates on an annual budget of about $120,000 a year and has reduced its staff while seving more youngsters and teenagers.
Fales noted her organization served nearly 1,000 youth during fiscal 2012, making nearly 3,000 contacts. That’s up from about 330 teens and 1,360 contacts two years ago.
Park commissioners asked if the agency had requested a rent reduction from the community house and Fales said yes, but without success.
Park Commissoner Ed Harney, who also serves on the Winnetka Community House board, explained, “The challenge for the Winnetka Community House is that the building has to be maintained and it is very old.” He noted the community house itself is supported by fundraising.
The park board did not discuss whether to increase the organization’s funding.
WYO started as a drop-in center in 1969 and continues to serve that function for middle and high school youth. The agency also sponsors concerts, open-mic shows and other structured activities in a substance-free environment, and provide opportunities for youth to volunteer in the community.