Big Brothers Big Sisters in financial struggle, seeks support

The nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington is asking local donors for help as the organization, which provides volunteer mentors for at-risk youth in Whatcom and Skagit counties, says decreased funding has put its programs in difficult financial straits.

A loss of funding has forced the nonprofit to cut its programs, lay off full-time staff and shrink its operating budget. The organization now reports that to remain financially viable, it needs at least 100 people to donate at least $80 on a monthly basis.

Directors with the organization said one of its most significant yearly grants, which totaled $84,696 in 2009, dropped to $4,689 in 2012. Another major grant, which averaged $184,879 annually, ended in 2010, according to the organization.

Individual contributions have also dwindled. Last year, the nonprofit brought in $14,947 from individual donors.

The combined losses were deciding factors in the organization suspending its well-regarded “School Buddies” program this year. The program offered mentorship to more than 100 children in nine local schools.

“While we don’t have a facility to showcase our program, the impacts to our community are profound,” Colleen Haggerty, the nonprofit’s executive director, said in a press release. “What we do changes lives. When a child thrives as they do with a mentor, the effects ripples into the community in positive ways. I don’t think this community wants to see us close our doors.”

For more information, call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington at 360-671-6400, or visit www.bbbs-nw.org.

The nonprofit plans to host a pledge drive from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, in the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery in downtown Bellingham. The event will feature entertainment, raffles and food.

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