Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Big Brothers Big Sisters stops local matches


March 22, 2018

Rosalie Loewen looks at the past files of volunteers and kids who have been a part of the organization. Kyle Clayton photo.

Citing reduced federal and state grant funding, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska announced last week that the local office will stop matching local youth with adult mentors beginning May 31.

Haines is one of four rural communities where matches will end. Current matches will be maintained with support from the main office in Anchorage.

"Youth and volunteers currently matched in those communities will continue to receive support from BBBSAK as they have in the past," said BBBS of Alaska CEO Heather Harris. "The current staff has been given the opportunity to continue on a part-time basis and a dedicated staff specialist will be focused on serving the communities of Haines, Homer, Hoonah, and Sitka."

Harris told the CVN she's unsure if the BBBS board would restart the program in Haines even if the legislature voted to restore grant funding that has historically funded the program. "It's not a sustainable way to run a program, to base it off the coming and going of grant dollars. We would stay in the community if there was a stable source of funds."

Matches will continue in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and the Mat-Su Valley.

Haines' BBBS Volunteer Coordinator Rosalie Loewen has worked for the nonprofit for almost two years. "It's a big loss," Loewen said. "We just don't have that many programs that serve kids here, and really very few that target or focus on kids that we know are facing challenges. Big Brothers Big Sisters serves all kinds of kids, but we definitely prioritize, and a lot of our programs are really geared toward kids who survive trauma or face other challenges."

She said the most important thing a person can do for a child who's had developmental trauma is to make sure they have healthy, positive relationships in their lives. Loewen said there are 19 paired "bigs" and "littles" in town, and three kids waiting for a match. "I'm absolutely determined to get them a match," Loewen said. "I think I'm going to have about a month left to do it."

She said she'll also do her best to register kids who aren't yet in the program, but want to be. "Come and ask," Loewen said. "It's OK to say 'I really think this person should be matched,' and I'll see what I can do. That's going to be my focus over the next four weeks."

Judy Ewald has been a big sister for 13 years who has had four matches since she began volunteering. She said she feels bad for kids who will miss that opportunity.

"I think it's a mistake that the state's Big Brothers Big Sisters is not going to support the smaller towns," Ewald said. "It's a great advantage for the kids because the ones who do have matches, they just get a different viewpoint on life. Kids are going to miss out on that."


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