The May 16 Gazette editorial highlighted the recent financial crisis at Big Brothers and Sisters and the children who will suffer as a result. It was not that long ago that the Hub almost closed its doors, which would have left many mentally ill people without vital services. The Billings Gazette is to be commended for alerting the community to these impending crises, and the community is to be commended for coming to the rescue, as in the case of the Hub.
Thanks to our generous citizens, nonprofit organizations shelter and feed the homeless, provide assistance and support to families in crisis, support many programs and services for children who live in or have been removed from dysfunctional homes, provide health care to those who couldn't otherwise afford it, enrich our lives with cultural opportunities, support people with disabilities, and the list goes on and on.
Reduced donations But what if, next time, the alert comes too late? Which of our citizens will be left without vital services provided by nonprofit organizations if local agencies close their doors due to lack of funds?
Most local nonprofit agencies have experienced a severe reduction in donations due to the fallen stock market and weak economy. Government programs, which used to be available to provide assistance, are now greatly reduced or gone entirely. More and more, many in our community are depending on nonprofit agencies for all types of services. In fact, without our local nonprofit organizations, there would be gaping holes in our community fabric, and all of us would endure the repercussions
Volunteer needs Many of our smaller nonprofits depend on volunteers, who are recruited, trained and coordinated by paid staff, to help deliver services. Even with dedicated volunteers, however, when there are insufficient funds to pay staff people, the programs and services come to a halt. The people who were getting those cost-effective services lose not only that service but have a lot of hope and caring taken from them as well.
Though many of us have been affected by the slow economy, now is the time for those of us, both individuals and businesses, that are weathering this financial downturn, to ensure that we all pull through together. We cannot allow local nonprofit agencies, upon which so many people depend, to close their doors, especially now when we need them the most. We already know this community cares about the less fortunate among us. Now is the time to make sure that our local nonprofit organizations that take care of these people survive. It is vital to the health of our entire community to continue these valuable programs and services which truly do make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in our community every single day. We all need to help, and, yes, dig a little deeper in our own pockets, to make this happen.
Adela Awner of Billings is the director for the American Red Cross in this region. She has worked as a staff member and volunteer for a number of nonprofit organizations.