Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula saw its annual state, federal and private grant funding cut by $120,000 over the last two years, forcing its permanent closure, according to a Friday press release from the nonprofit's board.

The organization announced that it is ceasing operations on May 31 and that its annual fundraiser, set for June, is canceled.

The nonprofit has been serving at-risk kids and pairing them with adult mentors since 1970.

"The Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula is incredibly heartbroken to announce that after serving thousands of Missoula children for the past 49 years, we are closing our doors on May 31, 2019," wrote board member Scott Johnson in a press release.

In a phone call with the Missoulian, Johnson said the organization is closing out more than 100 current "matches" between youth and adults in the community.

"Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula has faced a critical budget shortfall for some time," Johnson explained. "We have done everything in our power to deal with the loss of a third of our annual budget, including reducing staff and identifying new fundraising sources and models, but ultimately were unsuccessful in making up for this significant loss."

He said the organization currently has five staff members and a work-study position, but it has cut two staff positions and one work-study position recently to save money.

"We cut on phone expenses and basic office expenses," he said. "We looked at every possible way to save the program's operational expenses. We were looking at finding a new location."

The organization launched a traditional media and social media fundraising campaign in March, but it didn't meet the goal, despite Mayor John Engen proclaiming April as "Support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula Month."

The organization has fostered mentorships for 15,000 children in the community since 1970, Johnson said.

"To the 103 Littles who are currently matched with mentors in our program, we are so sorry that we fell short," he wrote. "We hope you know how difficult this decision was and that we did everything we could to try to keep our doors open. Your potential is limitless, and we wish you all the best."

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