DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The after-school program sponsored by West Dallas Community Centers has been keeping kids out of trouble for 78 years. Shaquela Ford, who is now 25, was a regular in the program for six years, and credits it for keeping her on the straight and narrow.

“It was my home away from home,” Ford said. “My mom worked long hours and I was in a family affected by domestic violence, so that was my safe haven.”

The WDCC’s program includes tutoring, theater, drug education and prevention, as well as a place for boy scouts to meet. But now the nonprofit agency faces a crisis. The United Way recently cut $244,000 from the program — about 40 percent of the budget.

“For parents that may not have the ability to pay, with the recession and unemployment rates, it’s tough,” said executive director Cheryl Mayo, “especially for those have two or three children and they need after-school care.”

The WDCC has three community centers that may have to close their doors on August 1.

Staff members believe the WDCC lost United Way funding because it does not have certified teachers and does not strictly focus on a traditional educational curriculum. That’s bad news for single mother Herlinda Santana, who just enrolled her 6-year-old daughter. “My daughter is a very shy little girl,” Santana said, “but she started cheerleading there and now she’s more active and more vibrant and tells me more stuff.”

The WDCC says it may have to force low-income families to pay a $60 a year enrollment fee to stay open. Meanwhile, the United Way says the funding cuts should not be a surprise, and that many nonprofits were put on alert that this year’s funding would be geared to agencies that focus heavily on education and income.

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