BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Lacombe has seen a big year in more way than one.
In 2016, BBBS successfully fundraised to move into the historic Kent House, now re-named for the generous sponsorship of Gord Bamford as the Gord Bamford House.
The move to their new facility and departure from the old BBBS home was fast-paced and hectic, but the organization made it through. Almost immediately following their official move, BBBS underwent their five-year accreditation, which placed even more stress on the small staff.
In true BBBS Lacombe fashion, the team pulled together, with help from the community, to complete these undertakings, making 2016 a year to remember.
“Climbing a big mountain like we did this year, seeing all the support from the business community, the clubs, our volunteers and supporters is absolutely amazing. Those people put their hearts and souls into this organization to sustain it and make it successful,” said executive director of BBBS Lacombe, Crystal Zens.
“We always seem to have been the little engine that could and it’s because we have such good support. We have a small amount of staff and a great number of people we serve and we couldn’t do it without all of the collaborations in our community.”
During the annual Great Big Christmas Dinner, Zens reflected on the year and the many accomplishments of her team and their supporters. She said the move and the accreditation took the main focus of 2016 and that she is excited to get back to basics with keeping up the core programs.
Core programs, such as the in-school mentoring and traditional mentoring programs, remained successful through the year, but will now take the centre stage once more as the staff has now had some time to adjust to their new home.
Zens said they still have a long road ahead though as they await grant funding announcements that will enable the group to pay down more of their mortgage.
She said the addition of the mortgage into the BBBS monthly budget has been quite an adaptation and the sooner it is paid off, the better it will be for the group.
“The mortgage and bills of the house have had a big impact on our agency. As well, we had our five-year accreditation through the National Big Brothers Big Sisters board only a few weeks after we moved, so there were a lot of changes this year,” she said.
“Heading into the New Year, we have moved, we are settled and proud to say accredited. We can start going back to building up our core programs, and concentrating on serving the kids in the community. That’s really what we do best.”
BBBS case worker Chelsey Hudkins said it has been a tough year, but the response from the community is what has helped the organization keep moving forward.
“It’s so heartwarming to hear kind words from people we work with in the community. It makes staying in the office until midnight sometimes completely worth it. Mentoring really does make a difference in a child’s life,” Hudkins said.
Zens was also incredibly appreciative of the community ties and kindness that made their transitions in 2016 successful.
“I’m very appreciative of the thanks people give us. I think my leadership is only a testament to the volunteers who represent us, and we have phenomenal community members that give their heart and soul to the kids in our community.
“Without the mentors who are there with the kids day in and day out, we would not have the capability to provide the support and vision that we are able to in Lacombe and our county.”
In 2017, the group will continue to work to pay off their mortgage and focus on their most important goal of building meaningful relationships for kids in the community.