ITHACA, N.Y. — Furloughed staff members are returning to the Ithaca Youth Bureau (IYB) and working to implement summer programming after over $110,000 was donated to the organization.

Two anonymous donations, one of $100,000 and one of $10,000, will help cover IYB’s operating expenses through the end of the year. Individual donations made since its closure in May will also be utilized to cover expenses related to modifications and adjustments to programs that implement new COVID-19 safety protocols and to replace old equipment. The IYB building will remain closed to the public and programming will take place in the parks and pavilions, Liz Klohmann, director of the IYB, said. 

“The recent anonymous donation helps us bring our full team back and get programs up and running,” Klohmann said. “We are grateful for the community support and excited to get our programming underway.”

Some programming, including Cross Country Running, Get Your Play On, Sport Spot and Tennis Anyone, began July 27, and more will be added. The number of children allowed in each program will be limited compared to previous years to observe social distancing measures. Youth Development staff are also working on creating a partnership with the Ithaca City School District summer high school program.

In June, the City of Ithaca announced a reduction of services moving into the summer months as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of the cuts impacting youth services. Specifically for the IYB, this included furloughing 32 of its 39 full-time staff members, no Youth Employment Service, and canceling summer programs, trips, youth and adult Recreation Support Services and summer programs involved with the Paul Schreurs Memorial Program, College Discovery Program and One-to-One Big Brother Big Sisters program.

Mayor Svante Myrick, who has long advocated for increased youth services spending, said that donors were specifically looking to help restore funding for youth services in the city.

“Now, as we’ve entered into phase four, some programming is possible and we’ve had a few months to think creatively about how to offer programming remotely and socially distance. The one thing we didn’t solve was funding. These donors wanted to give back to kids they’ll never know to make sure that they will be able to live lives of purpose and health,” Myrick said. “It’s very, very moving. For me, it’s a great relief. Not just because we get to bring our staff back, which is itself a huge relief — we feel responsible to our employees. But the mission, to create an ecosystem where young people have every possible shot at a good and healthy life is the reason I got into public service in the first place.”

Although the Youth Employment Service program was canceled this summer due to staff furloughs, youth were able to apply to the Tompkins Workforce New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Other programs affiliated with the IYB that were initially canceled, like Ithaca Bike Rental, playgrounds and athletic fields, reopened earlier in July. 

Community donations have been restarting many of the city’s recreational activities this summer, including the Alex Haley Pool and programs at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. There are also efforts to reopen the pool at Cass Park, which will require about $200,000 to hire 22 lifeguards.

Donations to the IYB can be made to the Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau at https://www.friendsiyb.org/.

Photo courtesy of the IYB.

Madison Fernandez

Madison Fernandez is a contributing reporter at the Ithaca Voice. You can reach her by email at mfernandez@ithacavoice.com.