Our Voice: Step up now for kids, and Gesa will double your gift

July 10, 2014 

Two very important programs are in jeopardy of being shuttered, and it's up to the community to save them.

Safe Harbor Support Center provides resources for children dealing with trauma but will not be able to function much longer because of funding cuts. The leadership there already is grappling with determining just how many hours a day it can afford to stay open. The teen shelter program it offers, My Friends Place, also is at risk because of financial constraints.

The nonprofit recently took a $156,000 hit because of changes in state rules and funding allocations. With a total operating budget of $400,000, that kind of unforeseen cut is debilitating.

"We've been limping along," said Karen Kirk-Brockman, executive director.

So leaders are asking our community to give $30,000, enough to get the organizations through the next few months while they work on a long-term funding plan.

Safe Harbor and My Friends Place provide support to our young people, especially those who are most vulnerable. They are worth saving.

And we're not the only ones who believe that. Gesa Credit Union immediately stepped in when the news of the precarious situation unfolded, and it will match donations up to $15,000.

"The news that our community could lose these two programs is upsetting," said Don Miller, Gesa president and CEO, in a news release. "Credit unions exist to help people, and here at Gesa we are committed to doing what we can do to help. We invite our credit union members and the community to join us in supporting this organization."

But there's no time to waste. To qualify for the matching funds, the donations must be made through Gesa by July 18. Just call or visit any branch to make a contribution.

Sen. Patty Murray stopped by the shelter on a recent visit to the Tri-Cities, and leaders appealed to her for financial help.

A stable environment is critical for young people, said Darryl Banks, administrator of the Benton Franklin Juvenile Justice Center. Shelter programs provide them with a safe, stable place to go, engages them and helps them find available resources to better their circumstances.

A journal at My Friends Place shows its true value. Teens who use the facility express themselves on its pages.

"I honestly felt like no one cared. I'd run the streets wondering, 'What if something happened to me? Would anyone even report me missing? Would anyone even notice.' "

The staff at the shelter gave the teen hope by showing that they cared.

Safe Harbor looks out for our community's children. It puts their best interests at heart when others have not. My Friends Place serves 8 to 12 teens per night and is the only shelter of its kind in southeastern Washington.

So while the leaders do their part in looking at standard budget cuts like limiting hours and trimming staff, let's do our part as a community to help them keep the doors open and continue this important work.

Let's make sure to take full advantage of Gesa's generosity by contributing a full $15,000 in donations by next Friday.

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