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Kids might be left in the lurch after Richland nonprofit’s layoffs

Ignite Youth Mentoring of Richland has laid off its paid staff, leaving its volunteers supported by a volunteer board. This photo from 2016 shows Stephanie Valencia, 12, right, and her Ignite mentor Carol Serle looking over pottery they had painted together.
Ignite Youth Mentoring of Richland has laid off its paid staff, leaving its volunteers supported by a volunteer board. This photo from 2016 shows Stephanie Valencia, 12, right, and her Ignite mentor Carol Serle looking over pottery they had painted together. Tri-City Herald

A Richland nonprofit dedicated to mentoring at-risk youth faces an uncertain future.

The faith-based Ignite Youth Mentoring laid off its four paid employees last week and is asking churches and the community for money.

“We probably waited way too long to put that plea out there,” Ignite board chairman John Inman told the Herald.

Programs will continue though, Inman said, and how many donations they receive in the next few months will determine how they continue.

In the meantime, mentors such as KyriAnne Boothroyd hope to keep seeing the 218 at-risk youths in the program.

She still worries.

Some of the adult volunteers may not stick with them without the support of paid staff members, she said.

The students in the program have histories that can include drug abuse, sexual or physical assault, being bullied, suffering from depression and attempts at harming themselves.

Ignite’s mentors give them encouragement, inspiration and a chance to find God’s purpose in their lives, according to an email sent by Inman to supporters.

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James Donaldson, a former NBA player and All-Star, spoke to about 20 people in April 2011 at Central United Protestant Church in Richland to promote his book and Ignite Youth Mentoring. File Tri-City Herald

They also learn social and job-related skills, the email said.

Children placed in the One-To-One program meet with mentors at least twice a month and attend structured activities when they want. There are 68 children in that program.

The Lunch Buddies program focuses on elementary and middle school students during school lunch hours, giving mentors and kids a chance to talk and have lunch weekly.

Inman counted 150 kids in that program, which will keep going until at least to the end of the school year.

He also said that parents can still get their child on a waiting list for new mentoring, though that could take some time.

“We’re trying to maintain what we currently have,” Inman said.

Inman and Executive Director Troy Farley didn’t elaborate on the specifics of the financial problems, though grants from nonprofits such as United Way will continue, they said.

In 2016, Jessica Ramirez of the Ignite Youth Mentoring program gave an overall description of the faith-based program based in Richland. January is National Mentoring Month.

Adding to the difficulties was a leadership shakeup earlier this year.

Ignite’s former executive director, John Scheline, resigned in March and was fired as a mentor in July after being accused of attempted child rape.

He was one of about two dozen men swept up in the “Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation.”

Ignite started in 2008 and Central Protestant United Church in Richland spun the program off into its own nonprofit in 2011.

Inman said it’s unclear if the allegations against Scheline triggered Ignite’s financial woes.

“We’re dissecting the situation,” Inman said.

Churches and the community have responded to Ignite’s request for help. Farley also will stick with the nonprofit on a volunteer, part-time basis.

The nonprofit still is working on a formal request for financial help, Inman added. Donations can be made at bit.ly/ignitedonate.

Ignite started in 2008 and Central Protestant United Church in Richland spun the program off into its own nonprofit in 2011.

Ignite received positive reviews and an expert designation during its 10-year history.

Jake Dorsey: 509-582-1405, @JakeD_TRI

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