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Volunteers, support for BGYA



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October 10, 2012 - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This isn't the motto of Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance, but it's an adage the organization certainly believes in.

The purpose of BGYA, in existence since 1979, is to strengthen youth and families who reside within the Brandon School District. This mission is reached through primary prevention programs— including mentoring, youth recognition, tutoring programs, family education, summer camps, and skill building scholarships.

"All of these things help to prevent juvenile delinquency and child neglect and abuse," said Gail Innis, BGYA caseworker. "Primary prevention programs empower children and families in ways that reduce the incidence of contact with the county court system... We want to enhance their lives to give them the tools they need to be successful and develop as positive people and productive citizens. We want all families to be harmonious— not necessarily the Cleavers (of "Leave it to Beaver" fame), but less turmoil and more positive bonding and positive experiences in life."

To accomplish this goal, BGYA needs the support of the community— both financially and with volunteer service.

Since 2005, the amount of funds BGYA has to provide programs has been cut in half, from nearly $20,000 annually to less than $10,000. Oakland County Youth Assistance covers Innis' salary as a full-time caseworker (she also is the Holly caseworker), but the money to send low-income children to camp, to give scholarships for art, music or sports activities to help at-risk children develop their talents, and to provide programs that educate adults in areas including nutrition and effective parenting strategies is money that comes solely from donors— both individuals and businesses in the community.

"The more funding we receive, the more programs we can put on and the more children and families we are able to help in the community," said Innis. "We'd be able to provide more scholarships for kids for enrichment acitivities, sports to keep them out of trouble, camp, after-school activities to help grow them as individuals and develop their self-esteem."

So far this year,, Innis has had 60 consultations with youth in the Brandon School District. The average age of a counseled youth is 11-years-old and the majority (40) have been referred for prevention/counseling. Other reasons include incorrigibility at school and truancy.

Innis emphasizes the need for volunteers within the BGYA organization, whatever your talent.

"We are looking for volunteers to do ordinary tasks and serve on committees such as youth recognition, but we also need people able to lead committees, specifically, family education, which plans parenting programs to educate families, and fundraising, to plan events to raise money," she said.

Volunteering your time, she notes, doesn't have to be a large commitment, or complicated. Mentors are always needed for some one-on-one time with a child, an hour or two per week can make a huge difference in a life. Or volunteering could be as simple as sitting at a registration table, or serving refreshments at a family program.

Innis notes that she once had a parent who said she didn't know how to do anything but bake cookies, but that was helpful, too.

"We need all kinds of talent," said Innis. "So call and see how you can help."

For more information on BGYA, to make a donation or to learn more about volunteer opportunities, call Gail Innis at 248-627-6445.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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