Big Brothers, Sisters feel pinch of tough times

Chilliwack Big Brothers is downsizing, but services to children and families will not be impeded, says staff.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Fraser Valley announced on Wednesday morning that immediate changes to services were taking place.

Chilliwack Big Brothers is downsizing, but services to children and families will not be impeded, says staff.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Fraser Valley announced on Wednesday morning that immediate changes to services were taking place.

Chilliwack executive director Shirley Wilson will be continuing in her role, but from the Abbotsford Big Brothers’ office. (Wilson came to Chilliwack from the Abbotsford agency last March.)

As well, Big Brothers will be relocating from its current location on Wells Road to a smaller location. The new location has not yet been confirmed.

Chilliwack’s reshuffling came on the heels of Big Brothers stopping operations altogether in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

“It’s a cash-flow issue,” said Wilson.

Last year the Chilliwack agency saw a 30 per cent drop in revenues.

Its main fundraising event Bowl for Kids Sake raised $15,000 less than previous years, and because of the economic downturn, donations have also slipped.

As well, the distribution of the BC Community Gaming Grants were delayed by four months. Those funds go directly to programming, but because of the delay the organization had to stretch its previous year’s funds even thinner.

“It means that we have to reorganize how we deliver our services in order to continue serving children and families, which is our primary focus.”

The Chilliwack organization has already been working with the Abbotsford, Mission, Ridge Meadows Big Brothers for more than a year now, sharing staffing and other such resources.

The shift in the organization has been a long time coming.

“The writing has been on the wall with the economic downturn,” said Wilson.

“But I want to reassure … children and families in Chilliwack should see no distinct differences in their services. All our programs that we operate should remain the same. That’s our goal.”

Currently the Chilliwack agency is actively serving 53 children and has 27 on the wait list.

“There is a demand for it,” said Wilson. “And there is a will and an appetite [from the board of directors] for operations to maintain in this community.”

Even though Wilson will be working out of Abbotsford, the two agencies will continue to be separate entities for now.

“There have been discussions of what it would look like [to become one agency] but those are board decisions,” said Wilson.

A case worker and operations administrator will continue to work directly in Chilliwack.

kbartel@theprogress.com