Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big Brothers Big Sisters receives big help

Ketchum and sheriff’s office support fledgling mentoring program


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

During the turbulent times of childhood and the teen years, it helps to have an older sibling. Someone to look up to and respect, a guide in the minefield of peer pressure.

"Mentoring is key to preventing drug use," Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling told the Ketchum City Council last week. "And the best program is Big Brothers Big Sisters."

The 106-year-old Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the largest mentoring organization in the country. It has about 400 affiliates—all being 501c3 nonprofits—across all 50 states, serving 255,000 children. An adult is paired with a child of age 6 to 15, and the one-on-one friendship can last within the program to age 18.

Blaine County was added to this list of affiliates last spring when the Hailey-based Community Drug Coalition started its own Big Brothers Big Sisters program. At the Feb. 16 City Council meeting, Director Terry Basolo said 30 matches have been made since then, with the goal of 100 by 2011. However, now that the initial year is drawing to a close, the organization is in need of funds to keep the momentum rolling through a second year.

The council granted Basolo's request for $20,000. The money was drawn from a $59,000 surplus in the city police's budget reported by Femling at that same council meeting.

Basolo said that of the second year's estimated operating cost of $120,000, about $110,000 has been raised so far, including the latest contribution from the city.

Since July, the city's law enforcement services have been provided by the sheriff's office. Ketchum paid Blaine County $1.56 million for 15 months of police services ending at the close of fiscal year 2010 on Sept. 30.

Femling expressed support for the contribution, saying "enforcement" against childhood drinking and drug use is already in place by his officers. "But," he asked, "what are our prevention programs?"

The sheriff's office is also a financial supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, having given $25,000 for the program's second year. Basolo said Twin Falls-based Seagraves Foundation gave $33,000, and the rest has come from individuals and private companies.

A study conducted by a national research firm reported that positive relationships between youth and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentors have a measurable impact on children's lives. After 18 months with the program, participants feel more confident about school, are better able to get along with their families, are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school than their peers.

Basolo said the Big Sisters Big Brothers program needed $100,000 in its first year, but that number has increased by $20,000 for the second year because of the growing program's needing an additional employee.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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