Helena is one of the greatest places to live. We support our community and we care about each other. When the symphony, the Myrna and the YWCA had trouble, we stepped up.

I never wanted to be in this position, but now Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Helena is in trouble, and we need our community to help decide whether we keep the doors open.

We face many challenges in our society -- drugs, crime, family relationships, mental health, education -- the list seems to go on and on. Some families are better equipped to face those challenges. I am very lucky. I grew up in this country, in a home with two parents who cared for, loved and respected each other. That upbringing provided me with more choices and opportunities than many.

Not everyone is so lucky. Yet, every child deserves the same opportunity. I have seen Big Brothers Big Sisters provide just that to so many kids in our community and I want to make sure that continues. The importance cannot be overstated.

I am proud to be a “Big,” because I have seen how my Little Brother has changed and grown in the five years we’ve been matched. When we first got together, he had a school attendance issue. The other day, he told me he kind of missed school during the longer Christmas break. I have also seen other long-term relationships, individual teen suicide prevention, and best friends forever relationships through our program. Within the past few years, we’ve had two individuals from Helena who were considered for national Bigs of the Year.

We can and must address all of our problems, one person, and more specifically, one child at a time. Can it be that simple? Can it be that easy? Can it work?

Yes, it can be, and here's the proof. National and local research has shown that positive relationships between Littles and their Bigs have a direct and measurable impact on children's lives. By participating in our programs, Little Brothers and Sisters are:

  • More confident in their schoolwork performance
  • Able to get along better with their families
  • 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52 percent less likely to skip school

Simply put, Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children by adding another positive adult to their lives in the form of a mentor. We develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

But it takes money. This past year, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Helena lost over $100,000 in state, federal and private charitable grants -- almost overnight. The changes happened so quickly we did not have time, nor the opportunity, to plan. We have sadly cut programs, operational expenses and staff, but it won’t be enough.

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Its fish or cut bait time.

We are asking our community to help us, continue to make these differences in young lives, and in our society. Drugs, crime, delinquency, vandalism, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, life achievements. We CAN impact them all -- but we cannot do it without your help.

Please join us in continuing to make a difference in Helena. Donate at the BBBS-Helena.Org site, create a bowling team for the Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser at the end of the month, or just donate to a bowling team of your choosing. Without your help, our program will not survive.

Thank you.

Peter Strauss of Helena is the chair of the board for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Helena and Great Falls, a member of the BBBS - Helena council, and most importantly, the Big Brother to Isaiah.

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