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Delta County Young Life works to build funding, community support

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After being placed on "financial leave," area director Ty Gallenbeck is searching for ways to bring stability back to the Young Life program that serves youth at Delta High School, Cedaredge High School and Delta Middle School.

At a gathering of leaders, pastors, parents and community supporters held last week, the need for ongoing financial commitments was stressed. An adult steering committee is also needed, to help take pressure off Gallenbeck and enable him to spend more time connecting with kids and sharing the love of Christ.

Over the course of the last seven years -- since Gallenbeck joined Young Life -- Delta County Young Life has struggled to stay on the "other side of zero."

Area programs are allowed to go into the red, but not to stay there -- and that's where Delta County Young Life has been.

"The decision we made to place Ty on financial leave wasn't because of a lack of commitment from Ty," regional director TJ Dickerson said. "Ty deeply has a heart for kids in Delta County."

Several parents attending the community gathering at Daveto's last Tuesday echoed the impact Young Life has had on their families.

Dickerson explained the deficit is not large, and Delta County Young Life is expected to be in the black by Oct. 1. That will enable Gallenbeck and Sarah Chavez, Latino Student Staff coordinator, to return to their part-time roles.

"What we are here for is to determine how we create longterm stability, so that Delta County Young Life doesn't scrape by, but continues to thrive and reach more and more kids," Dickerson said. "The reality is, the more we have to make cuts, the harder and more challenging that becomes."

When Young Life operates with a surplus, there's less stress and more dreaming, he said.

Several individuals in the audience had questions about the Delta area budget. Dickerson explained about half of Young Life's revenues come from individual donors; the other half is generated by two events, both of which are still in their infancy. The first is the Taste of Spring, held for the first time last April. The second is a Zombie 5k Run/Walk set for Saturday, Oct. 29, at Confluence Park.

Participation in both fundraisers has been low, but is expected to grow.

The coal mine layoffs resulted in the loss of several large donors, and a drive to recruit 100 donors willing to give $10 a month has been only partially successful. Several people suggested Delta County Young Life could be more proactive in soliciting contributions.

On the other side of the ledger, expenses are split between salaries and programming 60-40.

Gallenbeck was initially hired as a full-time staff member, but has been cut to part-time to help balance the budget. Married and the father of two, he supplements his income with other part-time jobs.

That led Dickerson to talk about the "bigger issue" of having a local committee of adults who have a heart for Young Life.

In communities where Young Life is vibrant, healthy and growing, Dickerson said there's a group of adults -- not leaders -- behind the scenes, working with staff, dreaming up ways to build relationships with youth and donors, and praying "like crazy" for the kids in town.

"Delta County hasn't had a Young Life committee around Ty for the last two years," Dickerson said. He connected that absence to the budget shortfall, saying the most effective way to garner financial support is by asking those with whom you already have a relationship.

At the conclusion of the presentation, an opportunity was provided for folks to sign up for the adult committee and to commit themselves to one of Young Life's two major fundraisers.

Gallenbeck said he was very pleased with the response. "Hopefully everyone returns again next week and next month," he said.

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