Updated Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 12:06 p.m.
A Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in West Virginia will suspend mentoring services for underprivileged children after donors pulled funding earlier this month in response to an LGBTQ-awareness training program.
Sara McDowell is executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia. The Charleston Gazette-Mail quotes her as saying the organization won't recruit or match volunteer Big Sisters and Big Brothers in Raleigh County or fill two vacancies until it has adequate funding.
Organizers said the program lost $80,000 in local grants after donors learned the agency accepted a $20,000 national grant to provide resources and training to promote inclusiveness of LGBTQ volunteers and youth. McDowell says the agency has since raised more than $30,000.
The program currently serves 34 children from ages 6 to 11.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia is facing backlash after it accepted a training grant to better serve gay and transgender children.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia received a $20,000 grant in September to increase staff knowledge of gay and transgender issues and develop local partnerships to help LGBTQ children.
After receiving that grant, a representative from three foundations – not disclosed – discontinued funding, and, as a result, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia is facing the loss of several programs.
Executive Director Sara McDowell says the funding was pulled as a direct result of accepting the grant. She says the result could be devastating.
“That’s a lot of kids whose only consistent thing in their lives is inconsistency," McDowell said, "and they have a lot of people come and go in their lives, and so this would be one more kind of let down that they face every day.”
McDowell says if she can’t replace the funding by the end of the month, she will have to suspend services in Raleigh County, where the Beckley office is located.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia began 25 years ago.
It serves Jackson, Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Logan, Mingo, McDowell, Wyoming, Fayette, Mercer, Clay, Summers, Raleigh, and Nicholas Counties.
*Editor's Note: This story originally stated Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia would lose funding in eleven of the 14 counties it serves, however, it was later clarified by Executive Director Sara McDowell the group only receives funding in 3 counties, but does serve 14.