Big week for Buddy Program | AspenTimes.com

Big week for Buddy Program

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN It’s game time this week for The Buddy Program.The nonprofit is hosting two events in the next four days that will, if history is a guide, produce about 80 percent of its annual budget.The Buddy Program has been hooking up kids ages 6 through 18 in the Roaring Fork Valley with mentors since 1973. Its roots are humble. It started by matching four adult mentors (Big Buddies) with four Aspen kids (Little Buddies.)Now, 377 kids from Aspen to El Jebel are either Little Buddies or work as mentors themselves each year. Extensive growth over the years required an extensive budget boost. To produce revenue, The Buddy Program relies on the Boogie’s Diner Buddy 5 Mile Race on July 4 and the Boogie’s Bash gala on July 5.The race netted nearly $56,000 in receipts and contributions in 2005, according to the latest Form 990 the nonprofit organization filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The race is an Aspen tradition that The Buddy Program mercifully took over from The Aspen Times about 15 years ago.The Boogie’s Bash has gained a reputation as a top party in Aspen since it started seven years ago. It attracts more than 600 people and raised $741,000 in receipts and contributions in 2005, according to tax documents.Combined, the two events raised $797,000, or 77 percent of The Buddy Program’s total revenues for fiscal 2005-06.On the expense side, The Buddy Program spent almost $694,000 in fiscal 2005-06 and tucked away another $342,000 in its reserve fund. The organization had total reserves of $1,073,256 as of March 31, 2006, according to tax records.The goal is to sock away the equivalent of two years’ operating revenues, according to Catherine Anne Couch, executive director of The Buddy Program.

The organization has gone through significant growth in recent years, she noted. For now, it will concentrate on doing its job well rather than expansion. Couch was hired for her fiscal management skills after working with the International Olympic Committee for 10 years. She working in marketing and corporate sponsorships for the games.Although finances are her forte, it’s the passion surrounding The Buddy Program that attracted Couch to the job in fall 2005.The organization operates three programs, all based on providing mentors to any child who wants one. One program pairs adults with kids for activities outside school, a second unites them in schools. A third program establishes older students as mentors for younger students.The community program matches adults and kids with similar interests. Pairs meet two or three times per month for one-on-one time or an activity, which can range from skiing to a community service project.In the school-based program, an adult comes to school for work with a student for one hour per week, outside of class.The peer program matches Aspen and Basalt high school students with strong leadership skills with elementary school students for an hour of work per week.Buddy Program case managers screen and interview the adults who participate. The organization has seven case managers, four of whom are bilingual. Each case manager oversees 35 to 40 pairs of buddies.Of the $693,842 in total expenses during the 2005 fiscal year, about 72 percent, or $501,450, went to program services. Couch said the goal is reach and maintain 75 percent.A misperception about the program is that all the kids involved are experiencing trouble of some type. “It’s not at-risk at all,” Couch said. “Some of the smartest kids in the schools are in The Buddy Program.”The participating kids have a broad spectrum of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds as well. One of the biggest areas of growth in the program in recent years has been with Latino Little Buddies. They now account for about 50 percent of the kids. Adult Latinos account for only 1 to 2 percent of the mentors, a figure the staff is trying to increase.

The needs and desires for a mentor are many. Families, teachers or counselors refer kids to the program, or sometimes the kids themselves initiate involvement.Research by the staff indicates that the Little Buddies gain self-esteem, learn effective decision-making skills and develop a more positive attitude toward school.”Our feeling is any child could benefit from a mentor,” said Cathy Fisher Grueter, director of programs.Nevertheless, the Buddy Program doesn’t recruit kids. “Our reputation works for us,” she said.Indeed it does. The organization is perpetually seeking volunteer adults. There are 45 children on the waiting list for mentors.For more information about the organization, visit http://www.buddyprogram.org or call its Aspen headquarters at 920-2130.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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