Community Services Building in Norman has a new roof of its own 

As the economy tightens, those on the financial edge are also feeling stretched mentally and physically. Nonprofit groups see local citizens, hear their struggles and direct them to the appropriate services.

Needing assistance from more than one social service is not uncommon, and at the Community Services Building Inc. (CSBI) in Norman, a variety of services available under one roof make it easier for clients. With a staff of just two, CSBI runs the building, housing nonprofits divided in the service categories of children and family, elderly, employment, and health and special needs.

"There are 16 nonprofit social service agencies in our building that offer services for all ages," said Becky Aguilar, executive director of the CSBI.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cleveland County (BBBS) is one of the agencies within the building. It pairs children with a positive and caring adult mentor and is part of the BBBS statewide program.

"We served 640 children last year in Cleveland County," said Diane Murphree, BBBS area director.

Of the total served, 400 were in the site-based school mentor program, which pairs a mentor with a child for one hour each week at their school. The goal next year is to serve 700 children.

Mentors range in age from 18 to 70 years old.

Another program offered through BBBS is for children who have at least one parent incarcerated. Murphree said 70 percent of children raised with incarcerated parents " and without at least one positive role model in their lives " will also be incarcerated, according to the state Department of Corrections. Within this program, 40 children have been matched with a mentor.

One family helped by the program included an 80-year-old great-grandparent who, because of two incarcerations within one family, is solely responsible for raising four grandchildren.

With the economy in bad shape, Murphree said grandparents, more than ever, are raising grandchildren. 

"We always need Big Brothers," she said. "We have 60 to 70 boys on a waiting list."

A few years ago, CSBI, which at one time was a veterans' center, had a wish list that included a new roof. With a grant for materials and labor donated, the new roof has been completed. On the current wish list is a new heat and air system, Aguilar said.

A total of $135,000 has been raised in donations, grants and through fund-raising events. The building needs a new chiller and cooling tower, as well as the installation of two boilers. Contributions of manpower, equipment and cash are needed for the project.

"This will make the building more green and more energy-efficient and will save money," Aguilar said.

CSBI board meetings are held at 3:30 p.m. the fourth Wednesday each month and are open to the public, at 1183 E. Main in Norman. For more information, call 701-2009. "Gina A. Dabney

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