Mentors Feel Money Pinch

Jeff Heintz, a senior at Lyman Hall in Wallingford, is a Big Brother to a third grader at Stevens Elementary.  For one hour each week, he meets with the student and gives him someone to lean on.

"I'm not there to help him with math and science and stuff, although I can.  It's more of a friendship.  It's more of a bonding experience.  He's an only child and so am I, I'm an only child, too, so it's a bonding experience for the both of us," said Heintz.

But that bonding experience will soon come to an end.  The School Days Big Brother Big Sister program in Wallingford is set to shut down at the end of the school year.  Organizers say there's just no more money to fund it.

"Who is going to come in and take my place?  Is there going to be anyone there for him?  And that's what I worry about a lot.  He really needs someone there," said Heintz.

It's not just Wallingford that has to worry.  Programs in Waterbury, New Britain and Torrington are all in jeopardy of shutting down because of lack of funding.

"Our income this year was approximately $200,000 less than we had anticipated, which is about a 10% cut," said Laura Green, C.E.O. of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hartford, which runs the mentoring programs.

Unless other funding becomes available, the 148 children involved in the four programs won't have a mentor next year.  The Wallingford program needs $40,000, and the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce is working to get it.   

"This is a program that should definitely stay.  It changes people's lives," said Heintz.

It changed Heintz's life for the better and his third grade student's too. 

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