Ponoka Youth Centre concerned over lost funding

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is really struggling to find its funding.” Beth Reitz, Executive Director, BBBS

Across the province, community organizations are facing concerns as funding avenues get narrower, and Ponoka Youth Centre (PYC) and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) are no different.

Both organizations’ incomes come from grant funding and donations and Beth Reitz, executive director for both, feels the trickle down affect with provincial cuts is drying up many of the organization’s resources.

Last year, the youth centre’s number of visits grew by 17 per cent, totaling more than 18,000.

Reitz says just one month into 2015, PYC is seeing a 33 per cent deficit in funding. “That’s through funding cuts,” she stressed.

“Due to the increase in the number of youth we’re serving, our budget expenses have seen a substantial increase,” she added.

At Ponoka County’s Tuesday, Jan. 27 council meeting, Reitz requested a $15,000 donation for PYC.

“This donation would enable us to continue to provide services to the youth and families of Ponoka and Rimbey,” she said, also referring to Rimbey, which operates as a close sublet of PYC.

The large portion of the two groups’ funding comes from the Ponoka Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), but due to its own funding struggles, FCSS was not able to contribute anything this year.

BBBS is facing an 18 per cent funding decrease without the aid from FCSS.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is really struggling to find its funding,” said Reitz.

She also requested an additional $25,000 for BBBS at the Ponoka County meeting.

For the last 12 years, PYC has been receiving funds through FCSS and in the 1980s, it was mainly for BBBS.

“But that being said we’re extremely grateful for the FCSS funding and we understand the challenge they’re facing with their own funding,” said Reitz.

The PYC runs six programs for kids ages six to 11 in Ponoka and Rimbey, 11 programs for older youths, homework and leadership programs with 14 staff and 30 volunteers.

With BBBS, there is both in school and traditional mentoring, teen mentoring, Go Girls and Game On.

Not only do the programs from both groups engage students in academics, social bonding and their community, Reitz says, they also keep the youth off the streets between the most worrisome hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

During her presentation to the county council, Reitz mentioned that those hours are the peak time for juvenile crime and victimization. Programs that connect youth to positive experiences have preventive outcomes such as avoidance of drugs and alcohol, decreases in inappropriate behavior and increased knowledge of safe sex and abstinence.

At this point in time, the organization is not looking at making any cuts in programs as a solution. “We are avoiding that,” said Reitz.

“Our board is actively pursuing different options for funding,” she added.

Correction

On page 11 of the Feb. 4 issue of Ponoka News, Ponoka Youth Centre concerned over lost funding, it states Ponoka Family and Support Services (FCSS) gave no funding to the Ponoka Youth Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters this year. However, while FCSS gave less money this year due to fiscal challenges, it continues to support the two organizations. We apologize for the error.