Chris Graham: No more Big Brothers Big Sisters?
“We regrettably no longer have the resources available to continue providing services to Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta.”
That’s from Jackie Bright, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge, which announced in an email today that it will be closing up shop in its longtime Valley base of operations to focus on Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
I was recruited into the fold of BBBS back in the late 1990s by one of Bright’s predecessors, Jeff Fife, now the executive director at the Waynesboro Family YMCA. I was a beat reporter for The News Virginian assigned to writing about local nonprofits, and Fife essentially hounded me until I agreed to serve as a lunch buddy under the program’s aegis at a local elementary school.
That relationship turned into a traditional big-little relationship with a fifth-grader named JaRay, who quickly became part of the family, serving as one of the groomsmen in my wedding and the point guard on the youth basketball teams that I got into coaching because of him.
Not only did I get the chance to add to my family with JaRay and his family, but there was also the extended family of Big Brothers and Big Sisters at events and on trips to Kings Dominion and things of that nature. So, so many super-good people who gave of their time and gave of their hearts and souls to make a difference in the lives of young people.
And now, it’s gone, at least for us locally. According to the email from Bright, it all goes down on Aug. 31. I understand the realities – Bright cited in her email that BBBS of the Central Blue Ridge has lost nearly half its operating budget due to budget cuts at the local, state and federal levels in recent years.
The good news, if there is any good news here, is that, according to Bright, BBBS of the Central Blue Ridge isn’t totally giving up on us. In the email, Bright said the agency is focused on rebuilding its capacity and reinstating its services to the Valley within the next five years.
Another item sticks out from her email. Since the inception of BBBS of the Central Blue Ridge in 1980, the agency has served more than 1,000 local children, the vast majority of them in the Valley.
One thousand kids. One thousand bigs. That’s at least 2,000 lives changed for the better, though that’s only by the strictest of accounting. Countless more have been impacted positively by the relationships forged under the auspices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge.
The Valley is darker today for having lost the services of this organization.