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November 10, 2013

Youth group changes name

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Bigger isn’t always better.

At least that was the thinking when the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Niagara County voted to break off from the parent organization and run the agency locally.

Now called Youth Mentoring Services of Niagara County Inc., the agency still has the same mission, it just doesn’t have the same name.

President Annemarie C. Bettino emphasized that the services the agency performs will essentially remain the same — matching up adult volunteers with youth seeking mentors — but now the programs can be specifically tailored to the needs of Niagara County — not the entire country.

“The change will allow us to better serve the youth of Niagara County. For example, we have a Welcome Program for our unmatched children that allows them to participate in some activities, even though they don’t have a mentor yet. Big Brothers Big Sisters doesn’t offer that,” Bettino said.

And although she stressed that the move wasn’t entirely money-driven, it was costing the agency about $4,000 to $5,000 a year just to be affiliated with the national organization, and that figure was expected to double or triple over the next few years.

With a budget of only about $160,000 a year, Bettino said that’s a big savings, and that money can be put back into programming.

Bettino said the Board of Directors, consisting of 16 Niagara County residents, have been thinking about the split for some time, but realized the time was right this year.

Before making the move, all of the agency’s funding sources were contacted, including the United Way, the Grigg-Lewis Foundation and the Niagara County Youth Bureau, just to name a few. All promised to continue their support of the agency.

Although the number varies, right now, 87 youth, ages 7 to 15, are waiting to be matched up with mentors.

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