Opioid and meth ravaged West Virginia added to its stellar reputation this week, when the Raleigh chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America announced it will suspend mentoring services due to a lack of funds. The move comes after several major donors pulled funds from the organization after staff members underwent an LGBT awareness training program.
Staff members of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America South Central West Virginia’s chapter underwent the training seminar focused on issues facing how to serve the queer community–both youth and adult volunteers–after accepting $20,000 in grant money from the Altria Group, a tobacco producer. The group had designated the funds to help train volunteers and staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters about issues facing LGBT youth, and volunteers.
Though the group has not disclosed the names of donors who withdrew their funds, organizers for Big Brothers Big Sisters have said they have lost up to $80,000 as a result.
Though Big Brothers Big Sisters has managed to secure an additional $30,000 in support from local and out of state donors, a spokesperson for the group has announced that it will not allow any more children into its mentoring programs due to the cut in financial resources.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America helps underprivileged children by matching them with an adult mentor designed as a positive influence. Many of the children have suffered neglect and abuse, or have parents suffering from addiction. Mentoring provides a child with anything from emotional support, to help with homework, to a daily meal.
Studies show that LGBT children are even more likely to encounter abuse or neglect, and are at higher risk for suicide.
The budget cuts, however, will affect all children in the Raleigh area chapter. At present, the South Central West Virginia chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America supports 34 children aged 6-11 with their services.
Note: This post was updated to clarify that only the South Central West Virginia chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has lost funding.