The Brown County Big Brothers Big Sisters office is “very close” to being open for business.
Applications will be available for children seeking a big brother or sister mentor next week, at the local organization’s office in the Family Services Center. In the meantime, phone messages left at the BBBS office — 643-5600 — this week, will be checked daily, and responded to as necessary.
“We’ve had a huge response from Brownwood in setting up a Big Brothers Big Sisters organization here,” said Janet Ardoyno, vice president of agency development for the area BBBS.
Ardoyno said the process for matching “Bigs” with “Littles” is to first take the applications for the children seeking big brother or sister mentors, let the agency run the screens and family checks, then take applications for the adults who will be mentors, and run those background checks.
Children seeking a match must be school-aged (at least 5 and in kindergarten). For initial matches, the maximum age is 15, though Ardoyno said it is typical for Bigs and Littles to have a friendship start in the primary grades and continue through high school.
Ardoyno also said she would encourage both girls and boys to apply.
“The mission of BBBS is to professionally match children one-to-one with adult mentors,” Ardoyno said.
Often, she added, a lot of boys seeking a Big will apply, and there will be much fewer girls. But she said, more women apply than men to be mentors.
“In BBBS, we only match male with male, female with female, so we are usually looking for more men, to be big brothers and more girls to be little sisters,” Ardoyno said.
Primarily, Littles come from single parent homes or home situations where there is alternative parenting, foster care children or grandparents. Bigs are not replacing parents, they’re being a friend, she said.
Once established, the local Big Brother Big Sister program will have several factions:
• The community-based program where Bigs and Littles spend time together having fun or doing every day activities together two to four times a month;
• A school-based program where the Big is matched with a Little at school, and weekly the two have lunch together at school, or can spend time together during the school day;
• Operation Bigs, a mentoring program for children who have a deployed parent or family member (funded through a federal grant);
• The Amachi program which is specifically for children whose parent, sibling or close family member is in prison (funded through several state grants).
With it being so late in the school year, Ardoyno said the start of the school-based programs may not begin until the fall, with the start of the school year, but that the options are still being considered.
Also, the BBBS fund-raising efforts will continue. The Harlem Ambassadors’ game Saturday, “was a success, truly a success,” Ardoyno said. More than 1,200 attended the game, and with sponsorships underwriting the event, the event will be profitable for the Brownwood organization.
“The fund-raising will continue, and is vital to the program,” Ardoyno said. “But we’re to a starting point and I’m so impressed by what this community has done to get us to this point.”