Cary Shelstad (left) the Board President of the Lacombe and District Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter and Crystal Zens the Executive Director accepting the sponsored mentoring mobile vehicle from Ford. Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Pandemic fallout: How community support is helping a Lacombe charity

Lacombe and District Big Brothers Big Sisters is staying positive despite a tough economic year

Lacombe and District Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) are bracing for another hard year as the pandemic continues.

The organization has already made several cuts to programming and staff but staff are still worried how the 2021-2022 year will look financially. When the pandemic first hit, government funding was made available to support non-profits now however they are on their own.

“My fears aren’t really for this year, we’re finishing off sustained but in 2021-2022 when there’s no COVID-19 funding the pressure will really come,” said Crystal Zens Executive Director with the Lacombe and District BBBS.

Another side effect of the pandemic is that the services provided by non-profits have become more in demand. According to Zens many of their programs have longer than average waitlists.

“They [kids] were faced with more challenges so of course depression, stress and anxiety are coming to the surface now,” said Zens.

Despite it being a tough year for everyone, the Lacombe and area community has come together to show support for BBBS.

The Lacombe Ford dealership sponsored an SUV for BBBS mentoring program that will ensure students can continue participating in the mentorship program. Due to COVID-19 restrictions volunteers are no longer allowed in the schools.

“Instead of ending, we have transitioned on into what’s called a site based mentoring program,” said Zens. “We will go around and pick the kids up and bring them to where they can meet with their mentor in a site based program.”

Without the “mentoring mobile” as Zens calls it, many of the matches would have had to end. This will also allow for more mentoring opportunities in the future long after the pandemic restrictions have eased.

It’s not just large businesses that are lending a hand to BBBS; in September the smile cookie fundraiser with Tim Hortons was also a success.

The annual fundraiser relies on community members stopping in at Tim Hortons to purchase a smile cookie for one dollar. This year a total of $10,530 was raised in both Lacombe and Blackfalds that surpassed 2019 sales by around $1,000.

“The support from the community was so awesome and it was a great response,” said Zens. “Lots of people bought a full dozen box to bring to their employees and workplaces.”

Zens knows the next year isn’t going to be easy, but she and other BBBS feel thankful for the community support they are continuing to receive.

BBBS are continuing with several other fundraisers to finish off the year including their annual festival of wreaths.

The festival like many of the BBBS fundraisers will look different this year compared to the past. The wreaths that feature participating local businesses will be displayed either at the business, the Lacombe Memorial Centre or The Abbey centre in Blackfalds. They will then be auctioned off online with proceeds going towards BBBS.

Anyone who wants to get more involved with BBBS either through signing up as a volunteer or with a donation can contact the charity through their website.

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