Big Brothers Big Sisters need support to help more kids

Ryan and Kamron

Ryan and Kamron

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Polk County is part of a strong network devoted to helping children reach their greatest potential. In recognition of January as National Mentoring Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates those who step up to make a difference in the lives of children. With an ongoing waiting list of youth, BBBS is always eager to support even more children who are hopeful to get matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest donor-supported volunteer network of long-term mentors for youth. Since 2003 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Polk County has been one of the national network’s nearly 400 agencies helping more than a quarter million Littles – primarily children of single, low-income and incarcerated parents – succeed in and out of school.

 

“Our priority, and what differentiates Big Brothers Big Sisters, is our commitment to providing long-term mentoring, resulting in proven positive educational and social outcomes, improving kids’ chances to succeed,” said Robin Myer, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina. “Donors enable Big Brothers Big Sisters’ quality staff, backed by proven support systems and structures, to provide matching, screening and ongoing support for ‘Littles,’ their families and ‘Bigs,’ from before each match is made, throughout the course of the mentoring friendship.”

 

BBBS collaborates with parents, schools, counselors and others in the community support network for youth in Polk County and the Landrum area. When children facing adversity have another adult friend on their team to support their deveopment, listen to them, advocate for them, expand opportunities, and offer guidance in a one-on-one relationship, how that child benefits!

 

Independent research confirms that Littles are more likely than their peers to have better school attendance and improvements in behavior, breaking negative cycles, and they are more likely to have stronger relationships at home and elsewhere.

 

To “Start Something Big” often starts with something little. Big Brothers Big Sisters asks volunteers for a one-year commitment. Many local pairs had no idea that their matches would exceed typical match lengths, reaching up to five, ten, nearly twelve years of friendship and guidance for a child, proving the volunteers’ commitment and the depth of caring that can build between Big and Little. Some of the match relationships then continue long after the official match concludes.

 

What do our Littles say about our Bigs?

 

“When I’m with him, I try to be like him.” “Without her I don’t know where I’d be in life.” “He always finds a way to make you laugh when you are down.” “I have a feeling we will be very good friends forever.”

 

BBBS is calling on not only volunteers, but donors as well, to provide support for children who need mentors. The hope is that along with new Bigs, donations will come too, so that all Bigs and Littles who are ready to be matched can begin a long, successful mentoring match, supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters professionals who are committed to helping vulnerable children beat the odds.

 

Supporters can also participate in local fundraising events. Have a HeArt for Big Brothers Big Sisters is a silent auction benefit opening at the Upstairs Artspace on Saturday, Jan. 23, featuring artwork by many area artists. Area businesses are requested to provide sponsorships to cover the costs of the event so that all of the funds raised will go directly to fund the BBBS programs. Guests are encouraged to visit the Upstairs through Feb. 13 and place bids on favorite pieces, giving the opportunity to double the pleasure, as winners collect a “HeArt” premium in addition to supporting local youth mentoring programs.

 

Financial gifts, stocks, estate and other assets may also be contributed through an Endowment Fund established at the Polk County Community Foundation for BBBS. Even with generous support of the Polk County Community Foundation and area businesses, the organization depends on individual donations to help recruit volunteers and reach more children. Funding is used to conduct background checks on volunteers to ensure child safety; and provide ongoing support for children, families and volunteers to build and sustain long-lasting relationships.

 

National Mentoring Month is spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a lead partner.

 

Learn how you can change how children grow up locally by calling 828-859-9230, emailing polk@bbbswnc.org, going to www.bbbswnc.org, or scheduling a visit with the BBBS staff at 301 North Trade Street in Tryon, N.C. It all starts with a “little” step.

 

-Submitted by Karen Dacey

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