Calgary Herald — December 2, 2016
It truly is the end of an era.
Forty-three years of helping enrich the lives of children and families in need, Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary CEO Cheryl Doherty is hanging up her non-profit hat.
“It was four years here, five years there and somehow 43 years went by,” Doherty said with a laugh.
“It’s wonderful to leave an organization that’s so strong, and has such phenomenal staff and volunteers. I’ve had one heck of a career.”
Since its inception 79 years ago, Doherty has been with the Boys & Girls Clubs for more than half its life, and has seen thousands of Calgary children overcome homelessness, poverty and trauma through the club’s many programs.
While the organization has grown exponentially over the years, Doherty said it’s a testament to the ever-increasing need for child support services in the city. Over the past year, Doherty said it’s been especially tough for families hit by the recent recession.
“There’s no question — when the economy is down, the need for services rise,” Doherty said.
“There are a lot of poor working families now, more families going to the food bank, more kids going to school hungry.”
This year, Doherty said the need for food and nutrition in Calgary schools has risen by 30 per cent; coupled with a 43 per cent drop in much-needed corporate donations, it’s been a tough year funding the Boys & Girls Clubs 40 unique programs.
“We’ve noticed it in all sectors,” she said. “But we’re plowing ahead and looking at ways we can pull back on spending, and raise more money where we can.”
Funding everything from youth housing to education and employment programs, Doherty said a big issue still facing Calgary’s youth, is homelessness.
“The reason a child is homeless can be from a million circumstances — they’ve been asked to leave or have left because of a dangerous situation,” Doherty said. “Others couch-surf for years, then that runs thin. We try to give these kids the support and tools they need to learn independence and self-sufficiency.”
Operating two of Calgary’s three homeless shelters, the Boys & Girls Clubs provides everything from emergency services like food and shelter, to renting youth rooms for when they get back on their feet.
Jeff Dyer, the Boys & Girls Clubs new CEO come January, has worked extensively with kids and non-profits organizations throughout his career, and said one of his goals in his new role is fighting to end the battle against youth homelessness.
“A surprising amount of youth experience homelessness,” he said. “Most of us don’t recognize it because it’s hidden. Either the economy has damaged them, or they’ve experienced early childhood trauma that puts them in a position of serious risk.”
Stepping into his new role in the New Year, Dyer said he’s excited to follow in the footsteps of a community leader like Doherty who has been instrumental in helping transform the lives of vulnerable children in Calgary.
“I’m eager to jump into this role and building on the legacy Cheryl’s created,” Dyer said. “We can all agree these kids need to be taken care of and supported so they can begin to dream again.”