Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids Waiting on Frozen Federal Money

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa kicked off their biggest fundraiser of the year Tuesday, all while waiting on some frozen federal funds, to unfreeze.

The Cedar Rapids based chapter hopes to raise more than $372,000 in this year's Bowl For Kids' Sake event. That money goes directly toward helping local kids find mentors. But the group also wants to expand their services to help more kids, and that may hinge on federal grant money, currently on lock down.

Back in June the Department of Justice audited Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. They said the national charity had such poor bookkeeping they didn't meet DOJ grant criteria. The department froze about $3.7 million in BBBS grant dollars.

To the Cedar Rapids chapter it means a halt of $43,000 grant dollars that would have been used to expand local services.

"Forty-three thousand dollars is an additional staff member and maybe about 100 more children," said Linda Henecke, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids.

Henecke said the frozen money hadn't been budgeted for. That means, while the group does have a list of kids waiting for a mentor, no current services are impacted, and fundraisers like Bowl For Kids' Sake won't need to make up for the frozen dollars.

"For our agency, we're lucky that it hasn't had a detrimental impact at all," said Henecke. "We're up and running in a new year, looking to continue serving kids and just growing at the pace that we're able to do that."

Some have called the audit and freeze by the DOJ a black eye for the national charity. Local, five year mentor, Matthew Doty doesn't see it that way. He still expects a big showing of support from the public this year.

"I have complete confidence that Big Brothers Big Sisters is going to be supported wholeheartedly by the people who care and have always been behind us," said Doty.

Big Brothers Big Sisters officials believe the frozen $3.7 million is temporary. Henecke said money could be released before the end of the year.

"They're working currently with their resources to get all the questions answered and have the proper documentation in place so that they can turn over funds to agencies like ours," said Henecke.
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