Coronavirus: United Way cuts Big Brothers Big Sisters Warren County funds

Big Brother Jim Bennett and his Little Brother Jamason, who have been matched since 2014 in Warren County.

Combined ShapeCaption
Big Brother Jim Bennett and his Little Brother Jamason, who have been matched since 2014 in Warren County.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Warren County has launched a fund-raising campaign in part in response to a shifting of funding by the United Way of Warren County to cover anticipated needs resulting from coronavirus cuts and restrictions.

“These cuts, though, combined with cancelled events, are putting the county’s Big Brothers Big Sisters programs in jeopardy,” Deb Haas, marketing and public relations manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, said. “The campaign follows the elimination of funding to our agency from the Warren County United Way.

“During this health crisis, the WC United Way understandably, needs to focus on agencies that provide food and shelter,” Haas added.

RELATED: Warren County scrambling to meet food, assistance needs

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati said the Warren County cut was $55,000 of an $80,000 shortfall.

“The other lost funds represent events in the county that we have had to cancel,” Haas said Friday.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is among programs whose funding has been suspended indefinitely, rather than cut, “so we can react to whatever these needs are,” United Way of Warren County CEO Aaron Reid said.

Reid said Big Brothers Big Sisters was overstating the shortfall and indicated Big Brothers Big Sister of Greater Cincinnati faced only a 2.4 percent budget cut due to the suspension by United Way of Warren County.

“This a time when organizations need to be able to take care of themselves,” Reid said. “All sectors across the country are facing cuts, dramatic changes to the way they operate.”

Reid said he and the non-profit’s board decided to suspend those recipients deemed non-essential in light of more basic needs caused by the coronavirus response. American Red Cross training programs were among others to lose funding.

MORE: Exec to head Warren County United Way, Community Services non-profits

“It was a very difficult process,” Reid said. “Nobody knows what those emergent needs are going to be.”

Reid said non-profits could apply for support from the United Way of Warren County’s new regional recovery fund.

Since 2014, Jim Bennett, a Big Brother in Warren County, said he and his “Little” have formed an important relationship.

“He looks at the world with different opportunities,” Bennett said. “I just hope this program can be preserved.”

The program serves 70 children and has three staff members in Warren County.

Kathy List, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, appealed to Warren County residents and business to make up the deficit in funding for school- and community-based programs.

“There is an urgent need for funding to keep serving children in Warren County. Our program is essential in providing children with a lifeline through the established, trusted relationship they have with their Big Brother or Sister, “ List said in the release.

MORE: Complete coronavirus coverage

Contributions are already coming in.

Joe Dominiack, co-owner of a Tropical Smoothie Café in Mason, said a company started with his wife, Cultivate People, had given $500.

“We had a Little since he was 12,” said Dominiack, about to open a second location in West Chester and a Big Brother for more than 20 years.

“It is more than just spending a day with a child, this is helping to open doors and provide resources that will benefit them for a lifetime,” Dominiack said.

About the Author