While Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grande Prairie & Area has shifted to a digital space for their hangout sessions, they face even greater challenges as the pandemic rolls on.
Like many not-for-profits in the region, the organization is struggling under the strain of the COVID-19. However, Executive Director Corinne Patterson says the pandemic has fundamentally shifted how they operate.
“I used to be really proud to say that we didn’t take government money, we stood on our own, and I can’t say that anymore because we made use of the wage and rent subsidy,” she says. “Thank goodness for that or we would probably have our doors closed as well.”
Patterson says with the cancellation of their biggest event, the Ultimate Escape, 30 per cent of their annual revenue was gone in a snap. She says, thankfully, the last three years have allowed them to establish a solid base of savings, but the cushion has been eaten away.
With their annual golf tournament still on the table, Patterson remains hopeful that 2021 can be the start of a positive turnaround. She says they’ve also got an unfinished project which is acting as sort of a light at the end of the tunnel.
“The basement is kind of keeping us focused, and we have something good that we know is coming that we are looking forward to,” she says.
The basement, a former dance studio, is being constructed to act as a safe space for youth and volunteers to use as a reliable place to hang out. The plan is to create a plethora of different rooms for use, include a games room, crafts room, and movie theatre.
In the meantime, online options such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts allow for an activity timeline to continue without interruption for both volunteers and the youngsters.