ALBANY, Ga. -- Jesse Massey said the calls started coming in early Tuesday morning, not long after The Albany Herald hit the streets.
"I had all these people calling me, wanting to know when NYSP became a two-week program," Massey, an Albany native and retired educator, said of the National Youth Sports Program that he's been involved with for the past 38 years. "I was at a loss."
A Dougherty County Commission discussion Monday that characterized NYSP as a "two-week program" has, Massey said Tuesday afternoon, hurt his and program officials Robert Skinner and Dan Land's efforts to raise funding for the five-week program that provides activities and educational opportunities for children ages 9-15.
"What I want the County Commission and the people in the community to understand is that NYSP is not a two-week program," Massey said. "It started as a six-week program, and dropped to five weeks due to funding cuts. The shortest program we've had is 4 1/2 weeks.
"What concerns me is that people will look at our funding request ($15,000) and say, 'Wow, that much money for just two weeks?' The misinformation hurts us big-time and we want to clear that up."
Massey said he's also concerned that some officials have indicated there's no proof that the local NYSP program, one of 11 such programs -- from a high of 238 -- left in the nation, is beneficial to participants.
"I'm proof," he said. "I was the first student to participate in the program back in 1975, and I've been involved with it ever since. I know NYSP opened my eyes to a level I had not been exposed to before, made me want to do something positive with my life. It also kept me out of trouble.
"There are doctors, lawyers, educators who went through the program who tell me today what an impact it had on them. NYSP at Albany State University has impacted in excess of 25,000 young people since 1975. I can guarantee you a lot of those young people would have been out wondering the streets without NYSP."
Massey appealed to the Albany and Dougherty County commissions for $15,000 in funding after the city voted last year to give emergency funding to the Flint RiverQuarium and the Albany Civil Rights Institute.
"They told me not to come back before them because they weren't giving any money to nonprofits, but then I saw where they'd given to those others," Massey said. "I also read in The Herald that gangs start recruiting kids in the 9 to 15 age range, and that's our target age group. Summer is almost here and school is out. These kids are going to be influenced one way or another.
"There's a need for this program. It has been a major benefit to this community. Not every kid can go to the Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA or Girls Inc. We provide a place where, from 7:45 to 2 o'clock, parents can know their children will be safe, will be fed and will be taken care of."