BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Lacombe team has been hard at work making the Gord Bamford House feel like home after recently making the official move into their new space.
Crystal Zens, executive director of BBBS Lacombe said the team is excited and thankful to have found a new location to continue their programming.
“It was sad leaving our old location, but very exciting coming into this new space. We’re working hard to make it ours and to make it warm and friendly for our staff and the families and kids we serve,” Zens said.
An open house is planned for Nov. 9th from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., where community members are invited to come have a look into the new space. Zens said it will be a fun event for families, with snacks and give-aways to make it an interactive way to introduce people to the new home of BBBS.
Zens said this is a very exciting time for the organization, but also very busy and a bit stressful due to financial fragility. She stressed in her time working with Central Alberta non-profits, she had never seen worse economic circumstances.
She also said the next 10 weeks of operations would make or break the organization and that the entire BBBS community is working hard to make sure they make it.
“The move was a huge project, and we’re going through our five year national accreditation right away too, so there has been a lot to deal with,” she said.
“All of the efforts from businesses in the community are really what are making this work for us. We’re struggling right now because we’ve never had to pay rent or utilities or a mortgage. Before this, all of our fundraising efforts have gone directly to programming so this is a massive transition for us and pretty much doubles our budget. We’re trying to be very conscious about not having any of our core programs affected.”
Zens explained there have been numerous fundraising events and donations in honour of BBBS Lacombe and all of these efforts are meaningful to the staff and families of BBBS. However, the organization only has roughly two months of operating costs ready to go.
With the new budget considerations of a mortgage and utilities, Zens said it is crucial to be mortgage free as soon as possible, so there is no loss of quality to current programs. She said the organization is about 50% away from being mortgage free and that they are hoping to reach their goal by December. The group has $148,000 left owing on the mortgage for the Gord Bamford House.
BBBS is exploring several avenues to reach this goal and maintain their current levels of funding. Zens was joined by fellow board member Darcy Stingel at this week’s council meeting to discuss additional options with the City of Lacombe, and to officially ask for assistance in designating the land a tax-free zone.
BBBS recently launched their Gold Rush Raffle that will help to generate some revenue for the agency. It’s a monthly raffle and Zens is hoping they can gain momentum with that project to help cover monthly costs such as utilities payments.
Tickets are sold for $5 in several locations in town such as Home Hardware, East Side Eateries, Reflections and Rooster’s in Clive. Tickets are also available online, and a winner is drawn on the last Wednesday of each month.
Due to their current financial situation, the organization is simply looking to maintain quality of programming rather than to expand. The school program and regular mentorship program are both still going strong.
“The community is embracing us and holding us up in this time of need, and we’re very thankful for the support, and are hopeful that it can continue,” Zens said.