Big Brothers Big Sisters Closes in Central PA

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SUNBURY -- An agency in Central Pennsylvania that mentors girls and boys closed on Tuesday.

It was the last day for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

Mindy Dull and Nyla Lopez-Melendez of Union County spent part of their afternoons swinging at a playground in New Columbia.

"She's too good. She doesn't need me to push her," Dull said.

Mindy and Nyla were matched up three years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

"When I started the program, I thought it was going to be something to help her out, but it's actually made me grow as a person and it's been one of the best experiences of my life," Dull said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs up adult mentors with children or teenagers who are in need of positive role models. The Central Susquehanna Valley Chapter announced earlier this month it was closing because of money problems. It served Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Montour and Lycoming Counties.

In a statement on its website, the board of directors said, "Over the years, the economy presented a roller coaster ride of employment layoffs, business closures, dips in individual investments and future savings."

The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way has funded this chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters for at least 15 years.

United Way President Keri Albright says the program is really needed in this area.

"I hope that they, somebody, gets together and reorganizes and reestablishes Big Brothers Big Sisters because it is thriving in other communities and it can thrive here, too," Albright said.

Even though the local chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters is ending, Mindy says she plans to continue her friendship with Nyla.

"My biggest fear was her mom would receive the letter in the mail and tell Nyla and Nyla would be heartbroken and I did not want that to happen," Dull said.

Nyla calls Mindy one of her best friends.

"We go to the park and to the movies, and we go to Knoebels. We go out to get ice cream and restaurants," Lopez-Melendez said.

"Can you believe it's been three years already?" Dull asked.

Representatives for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Susquehanna Valley did not return any of our calls or emails. The president of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way believes it costs about $1,000 a year per child to maintain Big Brothers Big Sisters.