Be a “Big” and Mentor a “Little” Brother or Sister Big Brothers Big Sisters Program
Did you know that January is National Mentoring month? Have you ever thought about mentoring a youth? A great place to consider is Big Brothers Big Sisters. They serve youth facing adversity with professionally supported 1:1 relationships. Their goal is to put a positive, caring adult in a child’s life. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa has been serving Linn, Benton, and Jones counties for 41 years. In 2016, they served nearly 700 youth in this community.
“A mentor can model a positive relationship, encourage accountability, discuss ways to stay safe and be a listening ear to a child who may need it most. We offer two ways for adults to participate; community-based or site-based mentoring. With both, volunteers commit to building a relationship with a child for one year,” says Linda Henecke, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The community-based program encourages matches to find common interests that they can enjoy together. Volunteers spend four hours per month mentoring a child. Activities such as exploring community events, going to a park, hiking the trails, sledding, fishing, sharing a meal together and introducing their Little to their family are a few examples.
The site-based program meets at school over the child’s lunch break. Site-based volunteers spend two hours a month with their little, eating lunch together. They may also read, work on homework or play games.
The programs focus on these primary areas:
• Educational success;
• Avoiding risky behaviors;
• Building social skills.
While they only ask their volunteers to join them for one year, the agency is renowned for long-lasting matches with an average of 40.2 months in the community-based program and 28.6 months in the site-based program. “Our goal is to help the youth in our program become successful, productive members of the community,” added Henecke.
Some of the benefits of the community-based program is seen through Matt and Garrett’s story, a Big and Little Brother who recently celebrated two years together. Here is their story from Matt’s perspective:
“My name is Matt McDowell, and I am a proud Big Brother to Garrett. I have been a Cedar Rapids firefighter and paramedic for ten years and I’m a married father of three sons. I heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters through a workplace recruitment event at the fire station. As a youth, I experienced first-hand the value of having a mentor by my side, encouraging me to succeed. This is the primary reason I signed up to be a Big.
Garrett and I have been matched for two years, starting as lunch buddies in the site-based program. After a year, we became a community-based match so we could spend more time together, outside of school. Garrett and I have spent time at the fire station, visiting Lego exhibits, playing soccer together and so much more.
I am so grateful to be a mentor to Garrett and be a part of something bigger than myself. Watching Garrett have fun, discover his strengths and become more confident is so fulfilling. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do for one, what I wish I could do for everyone.
Garrett is part of our family now and serves as a “big brother” to my sons. My relationship with Garrett has not only had a positive effect on him, but also myself and my family. You could have the same experience as Garrett and me, by becoming a Big today!”
There are 125 children currently waiting to be matched with a Big. Of those children, 74% of them are boys.
“Ideally, our goal is to get a male mentor to serve as their Big Brother,” said Henecke. Earlier this year, BBBS launched a campaign to recruit more males as volunteers. While it’s been successful, they still need more men to join them to serve the boys on the waiting list.
Bowl for Kids’ Sake Fundraiser
Bowl for Kids’ Sake is one of BBBS’s signature fund-raisers held annually from February 7th through the 26th. Companies and individuals form teams of six to bowl and support BBBS. If you cannot participate, you can sponsor a team or bowler. BBBS raises nearly $330,000 annually during this event. For more information on this event, follow this link;
To volunteer with BBBS or make a donation,
visit beabigcr.org or call 319.377.8993.
*Some of the information contained in this story came from the beabigcr.org website. (Matt & Garrett’s story was written by Matt (the Big Brother). Also, thanks to Melanie Richert for providing information for this feature.