BECKLEY, W.Va. — Youth across southern West Virginia who rely on Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia may soon lose services the organization provides. 

Executive Director Sara McDowell said she has been working long hours searching for donations as one of their largest local donors suddenly decided to withdraw their contributions. The group must now raise $60,000 within the next week or be forced to suspend their services.

She spoke on WJLS: The Voice of Beckley’s “Radio Rountable” Tuesday and later on “MetroNews Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.

“I am in fundraising mode and reaching out to anyone and everyone that cares about kids, and also cares about our state and the future,” said McDowell.

The donor, who has not been named, announced their decision to no longer give their yearly contribution shortly after Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia received a $20,000 grant to help serve LGBTQ youth. The donor reportedly represents three foundations.

“We were very fortunate to receive a grant to help support LGBTQ youth. A UCLA study recently revealed that West Virginia has the highest percentage of teens who identify as transgender. What this grant does is help us understand the best practices and gives us the training, the resources and the partnerships to respond accordingly.”

The Charleston-based organization has temporarily suspended operations in their Beckley satellite office, and is working to avoid doing the same in the Charleston office. This would take away crucial mentoring and after-school programs many kids rely on.

“It’s not about particular viewpoints it’s about helping kids, that’s it. This (program) is for every child. We know what we’re facing in West Virginia. We have workforce shortage, the highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation…why is that?”

McDowell said in a previous WJLS interview that educators see a positive change in students within days of beginning the program and being paired with a big brother or sister.

“It is always especially rewarding to get a call from a teacher to say ‘thank you, this child has done a complete turnaround’. Grades went from C’s, D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s, attendance has improved and they’re able to more effectively handle social interactions.”

A statement released on October 19 by McDowell on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters explains suspending services would be “another disappointment” to kids who already have had to overcome great adversity in their lives.

“For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. We are now the only BBBS affiliate that serves solely West Virginia counties, and my board of directors, volunteers and I are holding on to a thread of hope at this point.” 

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia or to donate, click here.




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