The Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Kentucky, Inc., closed its doors last month due to financial concerns, according to program officials.
Many student volunteers associated with the program through the Murray State Youth and Nonprofit Leadership program are feeling the effects.
The closure eliminated the four BBBS branches of Trigg, Christian, Todd and the Murray-Calloway counties, which served the area for 16 years.
“We were like one leg of a three-legged chair,” said Suzy Crook, former case director/case manager of BBBS. “It doesn’t matter how well we were doing, it was the agency as a whole that mattered. The best thing to do was to dissolve the entire group of Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Kentucky, Inc.”
The local chapter served more than 200 children through partnerships with a mentor and waiting lists. The children were selected based on social and academic needs.
The original mentoring program in the area was started in 1994 by Director of American Humanics Roger Weis as a service project for his YNL class of mentoring in the community.
“MSU deserves credit,” said Gina Winchester, executive director of Office of Regional Outreach. “The students are the ones who help keep the program going.”
Many students who are taking youth and nonprofit leadership classes will need to find a new way to obtain service hours.
According to Winchester, 98 percent of the BBBS volunteers were Murray State students.
Crook said she hopes to develop a new program with the help of a committee of volunteers. She said she is confident this program will depend on the help of Murray State students.
“I feel confident within the next three months, we will be up and running,” Winchester said. Right now we are trying to see if there are any partners in the region for financial support.”
The volunteers will be looking for support from other nonprofits. The board will also be looking for regional grant funds to help support the program.
“Every single penny we raise will stay in the community,” Crook said.. “There will be no national recognition like in BBBS, but you can still do the job.”
United Way has already given verbal support of the new program.
“We are close to signing corporation papers,” Crook said. “We have to get our own nonprofit.” BBBS dissolved in good standing to petition for a charter in the future, meaning national organizations could choose to sponsor whatever program develops.
A new board of directors has been put together for the new organization.
No name has been decided on yet.
“We are going to try to continue the same thing, with a new name, basing it off of BBBS,” Crook said.
The relationship between the program participants and their mentors will no longer be affiliated with BBBS, she said.