Sun Coast Big Brothers Big Sisters postpones decision to expand into Southwest Florida

The children and mentors with the former Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Florida are still on their own.

The affiliated Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, based in Venice, was expected to make a decision by early July to expand its service into Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. But the organization has since postponed its announcement until the end of the month to review its financial feasibility to expand.

After serving Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties for 35 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Florida closed its doors in June due to inadequate financial and operating standards.

Gina Taylor, spokeswoman for the Sun Coast agency, said the organization is considering the expansion for the children.

“The children are our main concern and we hope to continue the matches with the Bigs that have already been established there,” she said.

The national organization encourages neighboring Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates to retain services in the counties served by an affiliate that is closing, according to Kelly Williams the national spokeswoman. The agency must have sufficient resources to provide the careful volunteer mentor selection, screening and matching services and ongoing mentor support.

“An agency must demonstrate the professional staffing, technology and financial resources to provide the support before it can expand,” Williams said.

According to Williams, four Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates have closed this year nationwide due to financial hardship.

Sun Coast CEO and president Joy Mahler is reviewing the business plans for the additional five counties. Taylor said the organization is strong and would like to expand and continue to support the children and mentor matches.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast has been operating for 43 years in Manatee, Sarasota, Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto and West Charlotte counties.

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