Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia and District are looking back at the agency’s first 50 years with fondness.

But even as the organization celebrates half-a-century of mentoring local youth, executive director James Maxwell is working to ensure the future is bright for local youths without an older male or female presence at home.

“We are setting the stage to make sure that what we’ve done well for the last 50 years will continue beyond our time,” Maxwell said.

Entirely reliant on donations for its survival, the non-profit agency has established a fund overseen by the Community Foundation of Orillia and Area.

Interested generated by the fund will go to support its operation, with the principle left untouched.

“The more it grows, the more we have towards operations,” Maxwell said. “Our community is great, but I think they are taxed out. There are a lot of needs out there.”

The fund, then, provides an opportunity for residents who wish to support the agency in the long-term with contributions that are ever lasting.

“It was natural for us to partner with the (foundation) to help us be able to help people who might want to leave a legacy,” Maxwell added.

Which isn’t to suggest the agency is out of the woods in terms of covering annual operating costs of about $300,000.

“Every year we need to raise that through a variety of means,” Maxwell added.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary, organizers set a goal of $100,000 for the Community Foundation fund in 2016.

While the year’s end is little more than two months away, Maxwell anticipates making “a very positive announcement” at an upcoming gala, taking place Nov. 12 at Casino Rama.

“It’s a celebratory event to help people revisit our past and then to celebrate the future,” he said. “And just to have a good time and come together.”

Attendees are encouraged to “Be a Kid Again” during an evening event that features a live auction, a video dance party and penny carnival.

“And we have people telling their stories by video,” Maxwell said, adding Coun. Jeff Clark will share his experience as a Little Brother and a supporter of the agency’s school-based programs.

Demand for local programs continues to rise, with the number of children served annually jumping from 140 a decade ago to 316 this year.

Partnerships with Lakehead University and Georgian College have allowed Big Brothers Big Sisters to expand its focus on school-based programs with the assistance of student co-op placements.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to serve 300 kids,” Maxwell added. “We are able to do more by being creative, in that sense.”

For information about the gala, call 705-325-3151, or go to www.bbbsorillia.ca.

by Frank Matys

Frank Matys is a reporter for Orillia Today. You can reach him at fmatys@simcoe.com . Follow Orillia Today on Twitter and Simcoe.com on Facebook

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