Boys & Girls Club of Lumberton loses charter and solicitation license

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Jul. 17—LUMBERTON — The Boys and Girls Club here has lost its charter from the national organization and is changing its name, with plans to renew its solicitor's license that has been out of date since 2018.

The former Boys & Girls Club of Lumberton, which is changing its name to the Boys and Girls Center of Lumberton, first became an affiliate of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1996, according to Mary Regas, External Communications and Reputation Management director. The charter was revoked in March.

"Our National Council establishes requirements for local organizations that must be met and maintained for the right to be called a Boys & Girls Club. These include guidelines around key areas such as safety, organizational governance, youth membership, compliance with federal, state, and local laws, annual reporting, employee benefits, insurance, staffing, and more," Regas said in a written statement.

"Unfortunately, despite efforts by BGCA aimed at fostering overall improvement, Boys & Girls Club of Lumberton was not able to meet established membership requirements, and BGCA made the difficult decision to revoke its charter due to such non-compliance, effective March 15, 2021," the statement reads in part.

However, the Lumberton center's director, Ron Ross, said the decision was mutual and there were "no hard feelings."

Ross has worked in the Boys & Girls Club organization for a total of 53 years. He began his tenure in Lumberton in 1984 after leaving the Fayetteville organization. Ross said he sent a letter to the national branch citing concerns such as its desire to make clubs charge more and its lack of pushing for a pension plan while he was at the Fayetteville organization.

"My main concern is what national allows local clubs to charge," Ross said.

A membership in Lumberton costs $10 a year, with half being paid during the school year and half in the summer. He said if the price goes up, some children won't be served.

He also said the national branch had two different organizations as candidates for the club to merge with in 2017, but neither worked out. The price of membership played a role in one of the merger situations. Ross did not disclose the names of the organizations.

"With a mutual understanding, we split," he said.

Ross said he is sending a letter to appeal the national organization's decision to give him more time to change the name of the center in other places besides the building's exterior. He does not desire to rejoin the national organization, the Lumberton club's director said.

"Revocation of a local Club's charter means it is no longer entitled to use the Boys & Girls Club name, marks and other intellectual property that belongs to BGCA and is granted to member organizations," Regas wrote in her statement. " ... Misuse of our intellectual property in a community can cause confusion and misunderstanding that is difficult to resolve, and may have legal implications if used."

According to Ross, the center serves 30 to 40 children per week and has a membership of about 115 to 120. In 2019, he told The Robesonian the club had about 235 members. The national branch did not comment on or provide verification of those numbers.

Breaking ties with the national branch will mean the Center will lose some of its grants, Ross said.

He hopes to make up the funding through events in August and September, including a Jelly doughnut eating contest.

The local club will offer the same programs, but will only answer to its board of directors. It also will no longer be required to submit audits to the national organization, but will continue to get compilation reports done that are less expensive to complete, Ross said.

The last North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation License for Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton was issued Feb. 13, 2018, and lasted through May 15, 2018.

State laws mandate that charitable organizations, such as nonprofits, must have the license to solicit money. Doing so after the expiration of the license can come with penalties, such as being charged with a misdemeanor or fined. Acting as an unfair or deceptive trade practice is punishable by fines up to $5,000. Some exceptions, such as religious organizations, do exist.

"'Solicitation' means a request, directly or indirectly, for money, property, financial assistance, or any other thing of value on the plea or representation that it will be used for a charitable or sponsor purpose or will benefit a charitable organization or sponsor," according to the law.

The Robesonian has learned from at least two organizations that a representative of the Lumberton club asked for funding after the solicitation license had expired.

Ross asked for donations on March 11, 2020, through The Robesonian, saying the state's budget impasse had left the club without access to the annual $28,000 Boys & Girls Club Area Council grant and the club was operating in the red.

On March 31, Piedmont Natural Gas contributed $5,000 to the organization. Ross said the money was unsolicited.

"We were asked if we would like to have the money," Ross said.

Piedmont Natural Gas referred all questions concerning solicitation to Ross.

"We have a long-standing relationship with them," said Piedmont Natural Gas spokesperson Jennifer Sharpe. "We hope that our donation of $5,000 in March of 2021 serves its full purpose of helping the children of Lumberton."

Ross said he didn't believe the organization needed a solicitor's license, but that he would apply for one next week. The club only needed one as a requirement to receive funding from Lumber River United Way, which it no longer does.

"If I sell you something and you get nothing in return, that's when you need a solicitor's license," he said.

The latest Form 990, which is the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, was turned in by the club to the the Internal Revenue Service in 2017. The form discloses information of charities and nonprofit organizations to the public, donors and IRS.

"Boys & Girls Clubs of America has 4,700 affiliated Clubs across the United States and on military installations around the globe. As such, we are the stewards of one of the most recognized brands in the country. It is essential to our brand and organizational standards that all local Boys & Girls Clubs reflect our collective national mission and vision in local communities around the country," Regas' statement reads in part.

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]

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