WINCHESTER — After nearly a half-century of service, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia has ceased operations.
The nonprofit organization’s mission of mentoring local children has been taken over by the Youth Development Center (YDC) at 3 Battaile Drive in Winchester and re-envisioned as a new program called Baker’s Anchor Mentoring (BAM).
LaTasha Do’zia-Earley, executive director of the YDC, oversees the new program with assistance from Abigail Zimmermann, who was the only staff person remaining with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters at the time of the switch.
The decision to shut down Big Brothers Big Sisters and relaunch it as BAM was made following the March 29 resignation of Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Juli Ferrell, who took another job in New Jersey.
“The [Big Brothers Big Sisters advisory] board considered its options,” Do’zia-Earley said on Monday. “We took a meeting to discuss a possible partnership and realized this was a good idea.”
She said the dissolution of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia and the creation of BAM made good economical and practical sense.
“When you have big brands like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, stuff like that, there are priorities and regulations that each organization has to follow,” Do’zia-Earley said. “One of the things is that funds that are raised do not always come directly to the local establishment.”
“This is an opportune time to centralize our youth mentoring services out of the YDC while minimizing duplicated overhead costs,” Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia President Thomas Mutter said in a media release. “Furthermore, it was an opportunity to keep our resources and services local while serving more of the area’s youth.”
Do’zia-Earley said all of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring services will continue, with the only significant differences being the name change and its designation as a program of the YDC.
The local advisory board for Big Brothers Big Sisters will serve as an advisory committee for BAM, assisting the YDC with the transition and continuing to oversee annual fundraisers including Bowl for Kids Sake and the Superhero Breakfast.
Zimmerman, who had served as enrollment and match support specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia, is now program coordinator for BAM. She continues to work in the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 121 Youth Development Court, located on the Winchester campus of the YDC.
Do’zia-Earley, who became executive director of the YDC on Aug. 1, said the creation of BAM exemplifies her goal of extending the center’s services beyond its campus.
“Essentially, our mission is to help all young people as much as we possibly can, in every aspect that we possibly can,” she said.
The YDC was established in 1990 when Tom and Sheila Baker donated their house and 3 acres of land for the creation of an organization that provides recreational and educational opportunities for young people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. The YDC’s headquarters and activity building on Battaile Drive opened in 1995, and an annex was constructed on Youth Development Court in 2006.
The name of the new Baker’s Anchor Mentoring program is a tribute to Tom Baker, who died Jan. 12, 2018, at the age of 79.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia was established in 1973. At the time of Ferrell’s departure earlier this year, it was serving about 55 children between the ages of 6 and 18 in Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County. Additional volunteers were being sought to assist another 25 children on a waiting list.
To learn more about the YDC and its programs, visit myydc.org.