SIDNEY — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke County continues its mission to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. The organization’s vision is for all children to achieve their full potential in life.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been busy in spite of the pandemic and the uncertainty that has come with it. During these difficult times, the agency has recognized that the youth we serve need volunteers now more than ever to help them overcome the instability and feelings of isolation. Thanks to the wonderful support from our school partners at Sidney, Versailles, and Ansonia we have been able to continue to offer our after school Big Buddy mentor programs with safety precautions in place.
“This year’s Match Day event through The Shelby County Community Foundation was a BIG success. The generosity and support from the community through this event is amazing! We are very blessed for the wonderful donors that give to our organization,” said Jennifer Bruns, executive director.
On the horizon for Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of our biggest fundraisers, Bowl for Kids’ Sake, and the organization would love to have the continued support of the community through their participation. Given the pandemic, the fundraiser will take place a little differently this year. Instead of everyone meeting at the bowling alley at one specific date and time, sponsors and bowlers will get a bowling vouchers to be redeemed at Bel-Mar Lanes in Sidney and McBo’s Lanes in Versailles. They will get to pick the time that works best for their team or teams which will allow for social distancing, but still offer a lot of the same benefits that the two-day event offered in the past. This event is open to the public and allows community members and businesses to form bowling teams and compete against one another.
“As always, we are very grateful and appreciative of all the volunteers we have in all of our programs and on our board. They have been very patient and understanding throughout this whole year in dealing with some of the restrictions placed on activities or lack of activties during this pandemic,” Bruns said of the volunteers.
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The agency’s core community-based program is one of the four programs in which it serves children in Shelby and Darke Counties. With this program, adult “Bigs” are matched with “Littles” to provide a mentoring relationship with a youth of potential. The agency currently has 14 children who are ready to be matched.
We are always looking for community members who want to be Big Brothers or Big Sisters, and we are still accepting applications for Littles. If you are a parent or guardian who feels they have a child who could benefit from an adult role model, please contact us. While the pandemic and restrictions made for some obstacles along the way, the goal to find a Big for each child who is on our waiting list remains our focus.
The after-school “Big Buddies” is another mentoring program which helps provide role-models for children. Big Buddies is a nine-month commitment where high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors volunteer two times per month to mentor elementary students. During these sessions, high school students, under the supervision of Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, work with one or two children on different educational and recreational activities. This year, Big Brothers Big Sisters is utilizing SEL Social Emotional Learning curriculum for all the after school programs.
Currently Big Buddies programs are available at Longfellow, Northwood, and Emerson Elementary Schools in Sidney; along with Ansonia and Versailles in Darke County.
The Career Quest program, in conjunction with the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center’s Opportunity School held at Sidney High School, is a mentoring program where credit-deficient or alternative pathway students are paired with adult mentors to help them reach their goal of graduating from high school. The mentors help students build positive character and resilience, while preparing them for positive future careers.
Big Brothers Big Sisters also offers a “Lunch Buddies” program at Jackson Center Elementary School where community members have lunch every Wednesday with an assigned student. During their lunches together, students can talk or play games while meeting with their Big. This year Big Brothers Big Sisters and Jackson Center school officials have put this program on hold for the academic year due to the pandemic. We plan and hope to reconvene in the fall.
Approximately 22 percent of the operating funds for both counties are derived from Shelby and Darke County United Way agencies. Additional sources of revenue come from grants and fundraisers.
Aside from their Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser, they also hold an annual Duck Derby & Duck N Run 5K fundraiser, which will be held June 17 at Tawawa Park in Sidney. This event is open to the public, and allows individuals to “adopt” ducks that will race down Tawawa Park’s Mosquito Creek. Affordable corporate sponsorships are available for both fundraiser events by going to their website.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is always in need of volunteers and youth for all of its programs. For information on how to sponsor fundraisers, get involved as a supporter or potential volunteer, visit their website at www.bigbrobigsis-shelbydarke.org.