Young Life director laid off

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Steve Sipes, who has been the area director for Young Life East Manatee for a decade, has been laid off due to the financial downturn that has impacted so many charity groups.

Sipes, whose last day will be May 31, said there is a possibility that the 10-year-old Young Life East Manatee will have to shutter its operation, but community support could turn things around.

“It’s really up to the community,” Sipes said Tuesday. “I would love to see it continue. This is something I’ve been a part of from its beginning and something I helped grow. Parents will have to rally.”

A non-denominational Christian outreach group for high school students, Young Life East Manatee has a relatively small budget with Sipes as the only paid employee, but the organization is running about a $15,000 deficit right now, Sipes said.

Young Life also serves the middle school population with a group called WyldLife.

A paid area director is almost a necessity because that individual needs to go to area middle and high schools to support students, said Sipes, who visited Lakewood Ranch High School nearly every day during his tenure.

one in the future,” Sipes said. “We have to get back in surplus and put some money in the bank. Right now, with the $15,000 deficit, it’s not a terrible amount, but it’s hard to get out of a hole once you are in it.”

The organization still plans to take 100 kids to camp this summer in North Carolina, Georgia and near Ocala, but volunteers will be in charge of those programs.

Young Life Manatee County, which has clubs in west Bradenton schools, is doing OK, said Jim Nelson, area director of Young Life in Manatee County.

“Lakewood Ranch is a new community, which is not a bad thing, but it does come with some unique challenges for nonprofits, churches and businesses,” Nelson said. “I think the economy has hit a little harder in the east than west, mainly because of the housing market.”

Many of the faithful contributors to Young Life East Manatee have been developers, Realtors and builders, Nelson said.

“Three years ago they were doing well, but that has dried up,” Nelson said.

Young Life East’s annual budget is about $120,000, Nelson said. Young Life Manatee County’s annual budget is $339,000 with three full-time and four part-time staff.

“We have been here 20 years,” Nelson said. “West Bradenton has a very deep tradition. This is a well-established area.”

Nelson said he will try to help Young Life East Manatee regroup this summer.

“We have every intention of getting out of this deficit and getting Young Life East Manatee going again, but it depends on the people of Lakewood Ranch,” Nelson said.

Although the program is in jeopardy, volunteers could pull it out of its hole, said Barbara Broadbridge, a volunteer who lives in Lakewood Ranch and whose daughter attends club events.

“I’m confident it will continue,” Broadbridge said. “They only have one employee. Everyone else volunteers. You have to have a main director to keep in touch with kids. That one position is critical. I know there are adults out there who will help.”

Broadbridge, who opened her home for a recent fundraiser that netted $1,000, can be reached at 752-3014. She says that volunteers can give cash, supplies, labor and prayers.

Those interested in helping may also attend a meeting scheduled 9 a.m. May 6 at the Young Life East Manatee office at 7317 Merchant Court in Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park, said Kelly Pleasant, a volunteer who has been with the organization since 2004.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.