Partners seeking volunteers

Mentoring program faces budget cuts

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Moffat County's youth mentoring program needs to raise $10,000 to keep its doors open through January.

Moffat County Partners did not receive any state or federal funding for 2004-05, leaving the agency $55,000 short of its average $120,000-a-year budget.

"There weren't very many communities on the Western Slope that got any money this year," Director Tara Jenrich said. "It's been kind of a crazy time for nonprofits."

Moffat County Partners has served more than 350 youths in the seven years it has operated. Of those, 82 were teamed up with adult mentors. The remainder participated in group programs, which teach participants community, drug and alcohol education, social skills, cooking and safety.

"Partners was originally in--tended to ready adjudicated youth, and they found that one-on-one interaction was very effective," caseworker Melia Bisbee said. "People started using the concept to be more proactive."

Bisbee's part-time position with Moffat County Partners was cut as one of the organization's cost-cutting efforts. Jenrich also is working to cut back on office space.

She's applied for several grants she expects to be awarded in January.

Seeing results

"Our overhead is pretty low," Jenrich said. "Most of our funding goes to programs. If we miss out on the next go around, I'm not sure what the future of Moffat County Partners will be."

Jenrich said she'll work to keep the program together as long as she's able.

"We're really starting to see results from the kids we're working with," she said. "I truly believe we provide a very valuable service."

The program's shortage of adult/youth partnerships is because of a lack of adult volunteers, Jenrich said. Adults are asked to commit to spending three hours a week with their junior partners.

"People are worried about the time commitment, but three hours isn't a lot of time," Jenrich said. "Nine times out of 10, people call and ask if they can spend more time together."

The program targets at-risk youths -- those who have had legal trouble, were victims of crime or are having difficulties in school.

"This program gives youth support in areas other community programs don't," Craig resident and adult partner Robin Schiffbauer said.

Positive changes

She said she's seen positive changes in those she's mentored. They have increased self-esteem, earn better grades and their communication skills improve, she said.

Youths are referred to the program by social services, school officials or court officials.

Jenrich is looking to the community to help the organization stay alive. It doesn't get funding from Moffat County United Way, except when donors designate that's where they want their dollars to go. The organization is also funded though federal grants and donations, the 14th Judicial District and by fundraisers.

Contributions can be sent to the Moffat County Partners' office, 439 Breeze St.

"We're just in survival mode right now, which is unfortunate," Jenrich said.


Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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