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VAN NUYS : Sisters Group Closes Only Office in Valley

Big Sisters of Los Angeles closed its only San Fernando Valley office in Van Nuys Tuesday as part of an effort to scale back the nonprofit organization, which has lost 18% in revenues during the past two years.

Although services for the 74 Valley matches involving girls from troubled homes and female role models will continue through the main office in Los Angeles, the number of new matches may be slashed as much as 20%, program officials said.

“It will decrease the number of children we can provide role models for,” said Carol Holben, program director for the nonprofit agency.

As part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, the agency provides services for about 330 girls in Los Angeles County. The Valley matches, along with the two social workers who handle them, will be transferred to the main office on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

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Agency funding for this year reached only about $635,000, far short of the estimated $740,000 needed to operate the organization, which maintains three other offices in Los Angeles County.

The Valley closure will also affect the roles played by some of the Big Sister volunteers. Even Yvette Herrera, who was honored by President Clinton as the nation’s 1993 Big Sister of America, said she probably will no longer be able to teach Big Sisters how to prepare the social, cultural and educational activities they provide for their little sisters.

“I’ve helped do orientations in the Van Nuys office. And it’s been so easy for me, because it’s been right here,” Herrera said. “I won’t speak at the Wilshire office because it’s too far for me to go.”

Despite the setback, the agency is optimistic that a recent increase in funding and offers of free office space will allow the organization to reopen the Valley branch soon.

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Holben also pointed out that the San Gabriel Valley office, which closed at the end of May, was reopened part time in Montebello in a pro bono office space last month.

“We do have a history of being able to make the most out of challenging circumstances,” Holben said.


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