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Big Brothers Big Sisters looking at expansion

West Kootenay may soon be offered mentoring for young people through the Cranbrook chapter

Cranbrook's successful Big Brothers Big Sisters is considering whether to expand its boundaries to include the West Kootenay.

This year, the organization is conducting a feasibility study to assess if and how it could serve the West Kootenay from the Cranbrook office.

"I have been getting quite a few phone calls from the West Kootenay," said Dana Osiowy, executive director of the Cranbrook chapter. "Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada were also getting those phone calls."

Big Brothers Big Sisters matches volunteer mentors with young people across Canada. Currently, there are more than 33,000 children matched with mentors across the country.

The Cranbrook chapter launched in 1977, and today there are more than 100 matches.

Now, Big Brothers Big Sisters wants to provide that service to young people in the West Kootenay, too.

In this early stage, the charity is conducting a feasibility study to determine what that would look like.

Osiowy said the study, which will be ongoing through the end of 2013, will look at non-profits in the region that could partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the fundraising capacity in the region, which communities Big Brothers Big Sisters could operate in, other mentoring projects that have been offered in the West Kootenay in the past, and whether there would be enough volunteer mentors to call on.

“We can do it any way we want it,” said Osiowy, adding that the program would be offered through the Cranbrook office, rather than creating a new office over the pass.

“There is a network of mentors already,” she added.

The feasibility study is being funded by MasterCard, according to Osiowy.

“MasterCard want to support mentoring in rural communities, so this is the way they are doing it,” she said.

So far, Osiowy’s research has brought enthusiasm from the West Kootenay.

“There’s no lose: if we say we are thinking of coming into a community, everyone thinks that’s awesome,” said Osiowy. “It’s not expensive to run.”