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Without a rapid influx of donations from citizens, businesses and organizations, the fate of Bremen Youth Services will be in serious jeopardy by July.
CHICAGO, IL, July 25, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ -- It came as quite a shock when, in the Spring of 2016, Bremen Youth Services, a 501c3 nonprofit social services agency that has served 12 communities in the southwest suburbs of Chicago for 54 years, learned that the annual $300,000 of funding it receives from its local government, Bremen Township, was to be discontinued as of April 2016. Since then, the agency has been working harder than ever so it can continue to pay its rent and provide services.
"We've had to cut staff, and those who are still with us have been working long hours for two years to maintain our level of service," said Don Sebek, who has served as Executive Director of Bremen Youth Services for 46 years. "We have become very strapped for funds to keep going and now we are pleading with the community to donate funds so that we can keep our doors open."
After 54 years of being the agency the people of Bremen Township depended upon for quality counseling and preventive programs, the abrupt funding cut—and its threat to the agency's survival—has put the needs of the citizens of Bremen Township in jeopardy.
"There are no objective criteria by which our funding should have been cut," said Sebek. "There isn't any financial shortfall in Bremen Township and we have an impeccable track record of service to the 12 communities of the township: Oak Forest, Crestwood, Tinley Park, Posen, Hazelcrest, Markham, Country Club Hills, Blue Island, Robbins, Harvey, Midlothian, and Homewood. The people of the Township are the ones who have been hurt the most, since their needs and desires have been ignored by the Township leadership. If we close our doors, the Township will lose a key community resource."
The funding cut in 2016 represented a 180-degree turnaround from 2010, when the Township signed a 20-year lease contract with Bremen Youth Services, authorizing it to house its offices in a new building adjacent to Bremen Township's administrative office building in Oak Forest, Illinois. The agreement stipulated that after Bremen Youth Services paid rent to the Township for ten years to cover the building's bond obligations, the agency would be allowed to occupy the building rent-free for another ten years. The agency had paid its rent faithfully for six years—and continues to do so despite the funding cuts. But with this "bait and switch" move, the Township's abrupt removal of funding made it—and continues to make it—extremely difficult for the agency to stay afloat. "The fact that we're still in operation in 2018 is nothing short of a miracle," said Sebek.
"We've been evaluated by the State of Illinois Department of Human Services for 30 years and every year we have been approved for state funding," explained Sebek. "Our level and quality of service has remained as high as ever—and for two years we have worked overtime to make sure this has continued. There are many, many people in our community who have praised the work we have done to help their families and have grown to depend on us when in times of need."
"It breaks my heart to know that this organization is in serious financial jeopardy," said Chuck Wolf, a Board Member of Bremen Youth Services. "Bremen Youth Services has saved the lives of many people in the Township and helped many children become productive members of society. To remove the Bremen Youth Services from the community would threaten the development of the children and teens in Bremen Township."
"We have been intimately involved in the lives of so many Township families for years and they have come to trust us that we will be here for them when they need us," said Sebek. "We can imagine the hardship for families who will be forced to build new relationships from scratch with another agency, especially one that has had little presence in Bremen Township."
An RFP, the first issued to BYS in 54 years, suggested that something was awry in Bremen Township
The first indication that trouble was brewing came in February 2016, when Bremen Township issued a Request for Proposal for Behavioral Health Services. The RFP document, interestingly, vastly understated that Bremen Youth Services serves only 80 clients per year when in fact, the true number is about 200 unique clients per year; 70 clients monthly. They conduct 280 counseling sessions monthly, for a total of 3,360 sessions annually.
Bremen Youth Services' RFP response was a comprehensive 19-page document plus financial statements. The response also included case studies illustrating the scope and quality of their services.
Did Bremen Township's actions defy the wishes of Illinois Department of Human Services and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago while ignoring the needs of the community?
To add strength to Bremen Youth Services' RFP response, the Illinois Department of Human Services submitted two letters of support, and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago's South-Southwest Suburban Regional Office also sent in a letter of support.
Even the strong community outcry wasn't enough to convince the Township to continue its funding of BYS. Hundreds of people came to meetings during the RFP process, many giving personal and emotional testimony about how Bremen Youth Services had positively impacted their families over the years and urged the Township to continue funding the agency.
In their letter of support, the United Way stated, "United Way has always relied on Bremen Youth Services as an agency that is consistently dependable on the services that are provided." United Way further stated that "BYS has forged strong community relations that have allowed for progress and growth in families that are served." They also stated that, "minorities from disadvantaged areas, young adults without family support and recidivists—all who have difficulty navigating and gaining key access to appropriate resources have become heavily reliant on BYS. Their services have improved the lives of thousands of individuals and families while strengthening the community."
The Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, in one letter of support, stated that "Bremen Youth Services recently passed the State Fiscal Year '16 compliance check that occurred in November of 2015. The agency has always upheld an excellent relationship with the Division." They also stated that "IDHS/DASA are in favor of Bremen Youth Services continuing the work that they have done within the Bremen Township for its residents, and hope that they would be considered for funding through the Bremen Township."
IDHS also stated, in its second letter, that "the agency has established relationships with key stakeholders in their communities that support the consistent delivery of evidence-based prevention services." They also stated "Bremen Youth Services is dedicated to providing services that benefit youth and families in Bremen Township through a variety of strategies. We are confident in their ability to deliver quality services and fully support their efforts as they seek external funding to further assist members of your community."
Testimonials of Support for Bremen Youth Services
Testimonials from former Bremen Youth Services clients have amplified the urgent need to keep this agency alive.
Dan Grunauer, a former client of Bremen Youth Services said, "I started going to BYS in the mid-'90s when I was 12 or 13 because my dad was in prison at the time. My uncle had committed suicide, my mom was battling drug addiction and my dad was in jail for armed robbery. I had anger issues and needed help to learn coping skills. I went to other counselors and was unsuccessful. My grandparents found BYS in the phonebook and Don Sebek was the first counselor who did not have a clipboard in front of him. He got to know me first before diving into my problems. He used my love of sports to help me feel comfortable and to open up. Don was the guiding light in my life and straightened me out. Without BYS, I don't know where I would be today. BYS saved my life."
Another former client, Zac Collins, said "I am what I am today thanks to Bremen Youth Services. The first time I took a seat at the bright red picnic table in 2001, I was a kid who felt like the world was happening all around me, despite me, without me. I had a so much potential inside me but no confidence that anyone cared to see it, let alone foster it. However, over the course of that summer, and of the 17 years following it, I learned the truth.
"I became a teacher because of what I learned at Bremen," said Collins. "I became a husband and a father – a good one – because of what I learned at Bremen. I became a mentor, an advocate, an activist. I became a person who cares about others because Bremen was the place where I first learned what it feels like to have others care about me.
"There are still a lot of kids in this community who need to learn these lessons," Collins continued. "Even if just one has the chance to experience Bremen the way I did, then the world will be one soul stronger for it. As for my soul, Don Sebek and Bremen Youth Services has taught me that I can share a simple truth to everyone, especially those unlikely to find it without some help. It's a truth that I desperately needed at a critical moment in my life, and one that I and many others have dedicated our lives to sharing: It's All About Love. Bremen needs to remain the pillar of this community. The beacon of truth and love. Bremen needs to remain."
Bremen Youth Services: A Multitude of Services for 54 Years
After having provided 54 years of excellent service to the 12 communities that make up Bremen Township, the agency's staff has had to work on overdrive to meet the needs of the 70 or so clients come through the door on any given week plus providing community prevention services.
Bremen Youth Services offers more than 50 services including:
• Individual, group and family counseling
• Therapeutic summer program
• Substance abuse treatment
• School prevention programs
• Crisis intervention
• Case management
• Teen pregnancy prevention
• Community awareness
How the Community Can Help
Although Bremen Youth Services still receives funds from the IDHS and United Way, the cutting of funds by Bremen Township—a major component of their annual funding—puts severe financial pressure on the agency. Without a rapid influx of donations from citizens, businesses and organizations, the fate of Bremen Youth Services will be in serious jeopardy by July. The immediate need is for money to pay its lease obligations on its office on South 15350 Oak Park Avenue, Oak Forest, IL. Additional funds are needed to support staff salaries and community programming.
People and organizations who wish to make charitable donations to Bremen Youth Services can do so online by visiting http://www.bremenyouthservices.org/help/. Donors also can contact Don Sebek, Executive Director of Bremen Youth Services, at 708-687-9200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Bremen Youth Services
Bremen Youth Services (BYS), founded in 1964, is a not-for-profit community mental health agency committed to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families by providing quality mental health, substance abuse and prevention services. Services are provided by licensed counselors, social workers, and graduate level interns, mental health professionals and certified drug and alcohol counselors. The agency is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Bremen Youth Services participates in coalitions to network, collaborate, and maximize the services available to the Bremen Township community. Visit www.bremenyouthservices.org for more information on Bremen Youth Services' services and staff. For questions or personal assistance, please contact Bremen Youth Services at email@example.com or 708-687-9200. The agency's service hours are Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on and Saturdays by appointment only.
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