Big Brothers Big Sister of Northwest Montana received a welcome gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagle on Wednesday to help the organization with its mentoring program.

The gift comes three years after Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula was forced to suspend operations in 2019 after major cuts in state, federal and private grants.

But the northwest chapter eventually absorbed the local program, and the $21,000 gift from the Eagles #32 will go far in helping it complete its mission.

“It was a no brainer to help in a way that would make the best impact in Missoula to spread the word that Big Brothers Big Sisters is still alive in Missoula,” order president Jared Byxbe said in a statement.

Big Brothers Big Sisters said the donation will provide professional supported and one-on-one mentoring to area children. The organization is working to double the number of youths served in the region as part of a national affiliate.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America was founded in 1904 and is the largest youth mentoring organization in the United States.

The local chapter hit hard times in 2019 after more than a $120,000 reduction in grants. The organization cut staff and sought new fundraising models but couldn't make up the loss. The closure impacted roughly 103 Littles in the program at that time, the organization said.

But Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Montana absorbed the local program, and it relies in part on philanthropy to make ends meet, including that provided by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

“I would like to thank the community and the Eagles for having such strong support for a local charity that makes such a difference in many Littles' lives that might not have the access or ability to have a good role model in their lives,” said Byxbe. “That is what the Eagles is all about – people helping people.”