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Big Brothers Big Sisters in jeopardy

Non-profit in danger of closing their Cranbrook office after 40 years in the community
Big Brothers Big Sisters is in danger of closing their Cranbrook office after 40 years in the community

For the Townsman

After 40 years in the community, a leading non-profit organization in Cranbrook may have to close their office doors in the new year due lack of financial resources.

As a result of the economic downturn, increased competition for charitable dollars and staff changeover Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cranbrook does not have funds available to continue operations into 2017.

A new Executive Director was hired by the BBBS board of directors this summer and is rolling up her sleeves to keep the organization afloat and to continue its work with children and youth in the community.

"We have reached out to past volunteers and supporters of our organization and are receiving tremendous support," said new Executive Director Jordan MacDonald. "With restructuring plans in the works we just need time to implement our new plans and to secure our grants in the Spring of 2017."

The critical problem is the need to raise $15,000 to continue operations into the new year.

The organization has put together an advisory group consisting of Past Presidents, volunteers and former staff from the organizations long history in the community. The advisory group is establishing a plan and goals to secure sustainable funding for the future and is working with the organization's board and staff. The short-term need is to meet the organizations current financial crisis to keep the doors open until the strategic plan can be fully implemented.

"We are making a plea to the community for donations over the next few weeks and hope that we can raise enough funds to meet our short-term obligations," said Lakisha Gjertsen, President of the BBBS board of directors.

With nearly 40 years of history in our community this organization has provided positive mentoring roles for children and youth in our community since 1977. Big Brothers Sisters of Cranbrook facilitates life-changing mentoring relationships that inspire and empower children and youth to reach their potential, both as individuals and citizens.

Statistics Canada reports that, as of 2011, 14 per cent of households in Cranbrook are single-parent families. Eighty per cent of the children in BBBS programs live in a single parent family (mother or father). Being a single parent often requires working long hours in order to earn an income equivalent to a dual-parent household. Big Brothers Big Sisters hopes to support these families by providing a positive role model who, although not a substitute for a parent, can provide companionship and guidance for children in these situations.

While single-parent households may make up a large component of the families Big Brothers Big Sisters serves, our vision is to be as inclusive as possible, so that any child who wants a mentor is able to receive a mentor.

The organization's plans for sustainable growth focus on two main areas: an internal restructuring of our organization and our relationship with the community we serve.

"Previously in Big Brothers Big Sisters' history, the expansion of the programs moved fairly quickly, which made the programs themselves vulnerable to staff turnover and challenges in finding sustainable funding," Gjertson said. "Due to these shortcomings, several programs closed, and we have decided that the best course in moving forward is to focus on our core programming and grow slowly and steadily."

The organization has been consistently cutting expenses in recent months and have repeatedly revised budgets to ensure that funds received are used at maximum efficiency.

As far as community relationships go, Jordan looks forward to settling into Cranbrook and raising the profile of the Big Brothers Sisters of Cranbrook. and will have a new location within a youth services hub of offices located at the Kootenay Child Development Centre. Jordan originates from the Elk Valley but has worked with the Big Brothers Sisters of Lethbridge for the past 3 years. Press Release

"We have some dynamic volunteers and professionals who have stepped forward who have a great length of history with our Charity and we are confident that if we can survive the short term financial crisis that we will be able to continue serving the children and youth in our community," Macdonald said.

The organization hopes to raise $15,000 in the next few weeks to allow time to implement their strategy plan. If you would like to donate or assist by volunteering for a fundraiser for this organization you can contact Jason Wheeldon Advisory Liason at 250 426 9482 or Jordan MacDonald at 250 489 3111 or email