Portage County program seeks funding to stay afloat - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Portage County program seeks funding to stay afloat


Charlie Fernandez knows what it's like to stray off course.

"All my idols were gangsters of the day," Fernandez said. "I was headed down that path until some nice person finally took hold of me and helped me out."

Fernandez turned his life around. Now, he's a mentor in a program called "Volunteers in Probation," or VIP. It started in 2006.

"It's about helping people find a different way of life not punishing them," Fernandez said.

The VIP Program aims to help criminals learn a different want of life. It's similar to the probation system, but leaders say it's more personal. 

"The idea is to match a defendant with a community volunteer and hope that volunteer can help them change their life," Assistant District Attorney David Knaapen said.

But, the program is in danger of shutting down. Federal money that pays for it is expiring at the end of the year.

"We have all these people we've been servicing who are in danger of loosing this program because no one is stepping forward," Knaapen explained.

Program leaders say it will cost roughly $90,000 to keep the program going.  That's why they're asking the Portage County Board for help. Board members say they're working to find the money.

"You just have to try to balance what money you have left and what you can fund," Board member Mike Wiza said.

There are no promises. But program leaders are hopeful, especially Charlie Fernandez. He hopes the program will continue to help those who need it. Just like he did, decades ago.

If you would like to donate to the VIP program just head to the Portage County web site. Just click this link for more information http://www.co.portage.wi.us/

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