A popular summer program for children offered by the Tuolumne County Recreation Department will be able to start in July thanks to a $7,000 donation from the Sonora Area Foundation.

“This is a reflection of the generosity of this community and their understanding of what it takes to make this an amazing place to live,” said Daniel Richardson, director of the county General Services Agency.

Whether there would be enough funding for the program this summer was left in question after the county Board of Supervisors discussed the issue on Tuesday at a public meeting.

The county was unable to come up with the $14,000 that was needed to host the program at the Cassina High School campus, which was the only school facility available for rent this year.

Richardson said he reached out to the foundation on Wednesday to see if any donors would be willing to help after County Supervisor Ryan Campbell contacted the Sonora Union High School District and negotiated a lower fee of about $11,000 to rent the facilities.

“It’s really been a community problem-solving adventure,” Richardson said.

The county will be covering the remaining $4,000 needed for the program that typically runs runs for seven weeks from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Richardson said he hopes to have the program up and running by July 1, but they first have to go through about 40 pending applications from people to run the program. They typically hire high school to college age students at a total cost of about $45,000 to $50,000.

There are about 140 children and their families on the waiting list for the program, though the county did not take any money from them until they knew what would happen.

The cost is $120 for either the morning or afternoon sessions, or $240 for the full day.

Richardson said many working families rely on the program each summer, which is generally less expensive than the typical cost for child care. He said some on the waiting list have told him they may have to quit their jobs if the program doesn’t start.

“These are working professionals, some are employed by the county,” he said. “This provides their kids with a fun, safe environment where they can meet new friends and create happy memories.”

After reaching out to the foundation, Richardson said it was only a matter of hours before he was told there were enough people willing to donate for the cause.

Darrell Slocum, executive director of the foundation, said he had an immediate response from several donors who were interested in helping after he sent the word out.

“We exist to support the community and do what we can to fill needs when they arise,” he said.

Slocum said the donations came from the Holder Fund, Martin Family Fund, Boyd Family Fund, Tuolumne Sunrise Fund, and $100 from Campbell.

Campbell said he got involved with finding a solution because he felt like that was his job. He was critical at the meeting on Tuesday about the county being unable to find $14,000 for the program from the $78 million General Fund, which he said showed irresponsible budgeting.

“We’re talking about a program that is for children and families in our community,” he said. “That’s something I value immensely. We really need to work to provide as much support as we can for working families.”

The board of directors for High Country Sports Arena, a nonprofit organization in East Sonora, also offered their facility on Wednesday and said they would be willing to work with the county on fees it could afford.

Campbell said the county first wanted to make sure it exhausted all avenues with local schools because they’ve hosted the program for the past 20-plus years and have the most appropriate facilities.

“It was a really gracious offer that they made,” he said. “If the option was going with the arena or no program, I would have definitely picked the arena.”

Campbell said he and Richardson plan to meet with the arena’s board to see if there are other ways they could partner in the future.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.