BY MATT SHORTALL
Thanks to the support of local community leaders, and the generous donations of two anonymous benefactors, the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens is looking forward toward a bright future. Despite not being renewed for a new Request For Proposal grant from the city this year, John DeCristoforo, the new CEO of BGCMQ is looking to diversify the organization’s funding by reaching out more to private businesses and individuals.
DeCristoforo only joined the BCGMQ last year, but he’s been involved in fundraising and marketing for non-profit groups for the last 20 years. Before arriving at BGCMQ, DeCristoforo worked for UCP of Suffolk County, the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club, American Cancer Society, and American Red Cross.
“We’re very grateful for the support we receive from the City, and we look forward to continuing to work with them, but we’ve known for a while that our RFP grant wasn’t going to be renewed,” said DeCristoforo. “It’s caused us to cut back on some of our fieldtrips and other travel expenses, but thanks to the extraordinary generosity of two donors in particular, we’re able to maintain the core of our teen program and not lose sight of our overall mission, which is serving our local kids.”
For the past several years, the Department of Youth and Community Development allocated an annual $100,000 in funding. RFPs are competitive grants awarded by the DYCD each year. The City Council has no authority in decided these grants, but a spokesman from Councilman Eric Urich’s (R-Ozone Park) office reassured the public of his unwavering support.
“Councilman Ulrich has always been very supportive of the BGCMQ,” said Kevin Tschirhart, communications director for Ulrich. “He’s allocated $30,000 in discretionary funding, as well as helped secure an additional $25,000 in discretionary funds from the Queens Delegation so that they can continue doing the great work that they do.”
In the current fiscal term alone, City Council members including Ulrich and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) have allocated more than $600,000 in discretionary funding.
BGCMQ serves nearly 1,400 local youths between the ages of five and 18 annually, averaging over 250 children each day. Those kids come from neighborhoods all over Queens, including Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, South Richmond Hill, Jamaica, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Springfield Gardens, St Albans and even parts of Brooklyn.
Many of these communities are plagued by elevated crime rates and low-performing public schools. Many of the kids who attend BGCMQ come from low-income families.
The programs BGCMQ offers emphasize academic enrichment and physical health, as well as character and leadership development. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics enrichment program offers supplemental education to what students are learning in school, and the dedicated tutors and mentors work with kids one on one.
The two anonymous donors have pledged to match any other donation dollar for dollar up to $50,000. “Our donors really came through for us at the right time,” said DeCristoforo, “but we want to ask the local community to continue supporting us so we can provide the kind of safe, stable and positive environment that will enable our kids to succeed.”