Seven-year-old Raven Heil has become, in her words, a couch potato.
For much of last year, Raven and her 10-year-old brother Michael spent nearly every afternoon participating in activities sponsored by the Harford County Boys and Girls Club.
But since the club shut down in December, the Aberdeen siblings spend their after-school time "staying in and being a couch potato," said Raven, a second-grader at Hillsdale Elementary School.
Jason Weber, a fourth-grader at Hillsdale who also was active at the club, said he now watches television and plays video games.
At the club, he used to swim, attend art and cooking classes and get help with hisschoolwork.
"Without the club open, it's boring," said Jason, 10,of Aberdeen. "There's nothing to do. You wish you had your friends living with you."
Meanwhile, parents are wondering what happened tothe money they paid for services, said Teresa Corey, Raven and Michael's mother. She said she paid the $5 annual membership fee for her children and more than $40 for swimming lessons.
Jerry Lacey, acting president of the club, said the organization will honor the fees and services that have been paid for when a down-scaled version of the club hopefully reopens late this spring.
"Our focus is changing," Lacey said. "At first we wanted this to be countywide. This time we're looking to establish a very strong center in the Aberdeen area only."
Lacey said he expects the club to sponsor a community meeting before it reopens to explain the new direction.
Meanwhile, club directors will seek private and corporate donations, as well as government grants, for a proposed $75,000 budget, Lacey said. The directors want to hire an administrator for a $30,000 salary.
The club, whichoperated at Hall's Cross Roads Elementary School in Aberdeen, formedin spring 1990 to provide educational and social programs for countyyouths. It had about 400 members at its peak.
In December, the club's directors asked the first administrator, Charles "Chip" McGough,to resign.
Without an administrator, the directors decided to cease services -- without giving notice to club members and days before the organization's Christmas party.
Raven recalls how she and her brother found out that the club had ceased services: "We went there and one of the counselors was there and told us it was closed."
Raven and her brother Michael remember the fun times at the club.
Michael recalls his trip to Baltimore to see the Orioles play the California Angels last summer.
Raven talks about the first time she saw a jellyfish at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware on a club trip.
The clubalso took youths to the Harford County Farm Fair, the Baltimore Zoo,the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
For Stacey Thompson, Raven's second-grade classmate, the club provided her with her first opportunity to operate a computer, which she used to play games and generate pictures.
Disappointment about theclosing expressed by Stacey, Jason and the Heil children has been repeated many times over at Hall's Cross Roads Elementary School, whereabout 150 students participated in club activities.
"This was a place for (youths) to go after school," said Patricia Skebeck, principal of Hall's Cross Roads. "I'm really hoping we can bring that back."
While the youths remember their fun times at the club, Corey noted that the club provided youths with activities to keep them out of trouble. The services also helped children improve their schoolwork.
"It gave them more ambition to do their homework," Corey said. "It made doing schoolwork a lot more fun."
The club's directors shouldhave notified parents that the organization was facing financial hardships, Corey said. Many parents would have been willing to collect donations or organize bake sales to help out.
"I don't think the club was given a chance," Corey said. "It's sad, because the kids need something."