Partners losing state funding

$60,000 will be lost over next 18 months

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— A local mentoring program is feeling the effects of the state's budget crisis.

Partners in Routt County, a nonprofit organization that pairs youth with adult mentors, is losing $60,000 in state funding over the next 18 months.

The state's Tony Grampsas Youth Services contract accounts for one-third, or $40,000, of the organization's annual budget. Partners Executive Director Paul Bialek said the state is pulling $20,000 of this year's contract, which runs until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, and all of next fiscal year's contract.

"As a direct result of the state fiscal crisis, we have been told that the state will not honor the ... contract," Bialek said.

Now Partners is looking elsewhere for help to continue its programs.

"It's pretty clear that in this current state crisis we're not going to get help from the state," Bialek said.

The absence of state support and the possible loss of federal funding will force Partners to trim staff and programming and find new ways to sustain itself, he said.

The organization is willing to change to ensure youths are served in the future.

"We're really open to whatever umbrella we have to get under," he said.

Amy Pankonin, a coordinator for Partners, reminded residents to keep in mind that while they can do nothing about pending war abroad, they have an opportunity to take charge at home. People can do something about keeping the mentoring program afloat, she said.

Partners in Routt County has provided 130 youths in the county with mentors since 1996. Staff members recruit, screen, train and monitor local adult volunteers who make a one-year commitment to spend three hours a week with their junior partner.

Those 130 partnerships represent more than 17,000 hours donated by volunteers. But it doesn't paint a clear picture of the countless small victories and heartwarming stories that result from one-on-one mentoring relationships, Bialek said.

Today, 29 partnerships exist. The organization is always looking for more adult volunteers to pair with youths.

Victims of physical or sexual abuse represent 51 percent of the youths served by Partners. The organization reports 53 percent of its young clients struggle with substance-abuse problems and 34 percent have been involved in delinquent activities.

At the time of referral, 113 of the 130 youths served by the organization were living in single-parent homes.

Routt County commissioners acknowledged the dilemma facing the county as more local programs lose their state and federal dollars and turn to local government for help.

"The unfortunate thing is even though this funding is going away, the need for these programs is not going anywhere," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

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