Big Brothers suffers major cut
The lead position in the Haines Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization has been eliminated due to cuts in federal grant programs in recent years, according to Taber Rehbaum, statewide chief executive officer for the organization.
The organization has lost between $250,000 and $500,000 in recent years, Rehbaum said.
Sarah Elliott, who previously served as community director in Haines, will serve as match support coordinator, a position previously filled by Helen Mooney of Haines. The reduction amounts to about a $20,000 cut in the local group’s $50,000 budget.
“There’s no way we’re going to eliminate Haines by any means. We’re scaling back until we can find the resources to bring it back (to full staffing),” Rehbaum said in a recent interview.
The cut means the group won’t be recruiting, fund-raising or creating new matches, Elliott said. There are 33 active matches. The reduction will be in place at least until this fall.
Elliott, who is on maternity leave, will replace Mooney at the end of June. The match support workload of the Haines office has been increased to cover matches in Bethel and Ketchikan.
Statewide chief Rehbaum said grants for the program previously were secured by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
“It’s a different funding culture and we all have to respond to that, and deal with it the best way possible,” Rehbaum said.
She said the group will look for help from the state of Alaska and from individual donations to fill the gap. “As a statewide organization, we need to build up good, reliable donors who will help support our programs throughout the state.”
The Haines group raises about $20,000 per year locally, including about $6,000 through Bowl-for-Kids’-Sake and $14,000 through an annual fund-raiser luncheon.
The statewide organization would like Haines to raise about $30,000 per year through the two efforts and become more self-sufficient, Elliott said, but that’s tough in a town like Haines.
“There’s already so many non-profits in this community and people are already very generous to Big Brothers-Big Sisters. Our large donors give $1,000 a year for three years. There’s no way to get more. It’s ridiculous to ask for more,” Elliott said.
Hoonah’s program is entirely self-sufficient, but gets money from the sale of pull-tabs, she said.
Statewide chief Rehbaum said participation in the Haines program is great for the town’s size and that volunteer and school district support is critical to sustaining the program here.