Partners to take state budget cut

Mentors program may not be able to assist more children

A state grant that helped start Moffat County Partners has been eliminated, gutting one-third of the non-profit group's budget and putting its future programs in question.

"We'll keep running, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to take anymore kids on," said Tara Jenrich, Partners' executive director.

Jenrich along with five other Partners' affiliates statewide learned Monday that Colorado's budget woes will mean the loss of the Tony Grampsas Youth Services grant -- a cut of $34,000 this year from Moffat County's budget.

The group pairs adult volunteers in the community with children who have a variety of mentoring needs.

There are 12 such pairings in Moffat County.

While the lost funds won't affect those efforts, the 51 Moffat County children now on waiting lists could be impacted, Jenrich said.

Some Partners staff, which aside from Jenrich includes two case managers who organize monthly activities for youth and adults, might have to be let go, she said. Pairing more kids and adults would mean more case managers.

"I don't know how much more one case manager can handle ... I'm not sure how we are going to handle this, but we will see some changes," Jenrich said. "We'll definitely be looking to the community for support."

Tony Grampsas Youth Service dollars were instrumental in establishing Partners in Moffat County in 1998. An initial grant of $25,000 paid the salary of Partners' first local executive director -- a position still funded from the same source.

The Grampsas program -- administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment -- provides state funding for community-based programs that assist youth and their families in reducing youth crime, child abuse and neglect.

Some 22 mentoring agencies statewide will be impacted by the new cuts, including a $40,000 hit for Routt County's Partners chapter, according to Debbie Groves, coordinator of the state's Grampsas program.

"We're still trying to absorb it," said Jenrich, who was named director last July.

Jenrich said some of the surprise stems from a conference of Partners affiliates last week in Fort Collins -- attended by Lt. Gov. Jane Norton -- which left her with the impression the grant would survive through

April.

Groves -- who attended the same conference -- said she was advised the program could survive this year with "substantial" budget reductions in the first six months.

Word of the joint-budget committee's decision was received Friday, she said.

The state had earmarked $1.2 million this year for the Grampsas program -- in its ninth year -- which had been funded at $8.6 million in 2002 prior the state's first round of cuts.

Groves, meanwhile, said that non-profits like Partners would have to turn to the people they serve.

"Everyone is hit hard, but the hope is the community can help."

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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