SIDNEY — In 1904, when a young New York City court clerk was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom, he recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, so he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement. Today, there are over 300 affiliate chapters nationwide. In the past 10 years, more than 200 million children have been served by Big Brothers Big Sisters nationwide. There are currently more than 400 thousand volunteer mentors nationally, yet 8.5 million national children still waiting to be matched with a mentor. Of that 8.5 million, 21 are right here in the local communities.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County chapter started in Shelby County in 1973 and Darke County in 1993. In 2018, the agency served almost 600 children throughout the two-county area. For the past 46 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County has served countless numbers of children in our rural community. The agency’s mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Their vision is for all youth to achieve their full potential. The support of our local community is needed in order to fulfill the agency’s mission and vision.
“By volunteering as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, you will find it just as rewarding as the Littles with which you are matched. Life is busy, and it is easy to brush off another thing to add to your to do list; but every time you meet with your Little, you get to see a new perspective on things, gain a friendship, learn more, do more, and become more,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County Executive Director Jennifer Bruns.
The local dual-county agency offers five different mentoring programs including: Community-Based Mentoring, Couples Mentoring, Big Buddies, Lunch Buddies, and Career Quest. The Community-Based Mentoring program matches an adult community member — a Big Brother or Big Sister —with a child living within the county. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, complete a thorough background check, and are eventually matched with a child aged 5 to 16 years old — a Little Brother or Little Sister—based on their mutual interests. A case-worker is assigned to the match to ensure open communication and a successful ongoing relationship. Community-Based matches enjoy activities together on their own time at least two times per month, and are also invited to attend free agency-sponsored monthly outings.
The Couples Mentoring program is very similar to the Community-Based Mentoring program, in that, adult community members are matched with a Little living within the county. The only difference is that the match is made with an adult couple rather than an individual. With a Couples Match, a couple gets to experience the joy of mentoring a child together and Littles are exposed to positive and healthy relationships.
The Big Buddies program is a site-based, after-school mentoring program where a high school student—Big Buddy—is matched with an elementary student — Little Buddy — and together they work on prepared curriculum which is facilitated by a Program Coordinator from the agency. For the 2019-2020 school year, the Big Buddies program will be utilizing the Peace Education Foundation’s “Peace Works” curriculum which focuses on violence prevention, social and emotional development, conflict resolution, mediation skills, character and values, and bullying prevention. Big Buddies programs meet twice a month during the school year at Ansonia, Greenville, Sidney and Versailles Elementary Schools.
The Lunch Buddies program is held at Jackson Center Schools. This program is for scone- and third-grade students who have been referred by their teacher or guidance counselor. The students meet with their Lunch Buddy every Wednesday during the school year during lunch. Adult Lunch Buddies assist with homework, play games with their Little Lunch Buddy, and most importantly providing friendship and encouragement to a child who may feel left out.
The Career Quest program is a partnership with Sidney-Shelby County Opportunity School. The program is for graduation credit deficient students and provides one-to-one mentoring and tutoring services. The hope is to get these students back on track and prepared to graduate high school. Post-high school employment training is offered through Edison State Community College and Rhodes State College. The schedule is flexible for mentors, and they can be available on their own time.
Annual reports are prepared at the national level which detail the impact mentoring programs have on children served. After only 18 months of being enrolled in a Big Brothers Big Sisters program, children present better choices regarding substance abuse, education, and conflict resolution. The data concludes that after this short period of time being matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, Little Brothers and Little Sisters are:
• 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs,
• 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol,
• 52 percent less likely to skip school,
• 37 percent less likely to skip a class, and
• 33 percent less likely to hit someone.
A volunteer’s role in the effort to help local children cannot be over stated.
There are currently 17 children in Shelby County and four children in Darke County on the agency’s Community-Based/Couples Mentoring waiting lists. These children will be featured during the agency’s #WaitingWednesday volunteer mentor recruitment campaign. Each Wednesday, the Sidney Daily News will publish that week’s child.
For more information about enrolling a child in a Big Brothers Big Sisters program, volunteer mentor enrollment, and other ways to support our local agency, call 937-492-7611 or 937-547-9622.
“You can help raise community awareness of the challenges faced by children right here in our local communities by following and sharing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn,” said Bruns.
Go to www.bigbrobigsis-shelbydarke.org for more details. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit United Way partner agency.