The excitement shown by the small group planning to start a Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in Brown County could be contagious. Certainly, the need exists for the proven programs this particular organization provides.

Big Brothers Big Sisters describes itself as the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States, and as having been a leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century.

Yet the success of any such program rests largely on the motivation, dedication and ability of volunteers to be of service to young people, in this case those ages 6 through 18.

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships with measurable results, according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters executive from Abilene who met with two interested local residents this week. According to studies, children matched with a “Big” are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

Those are impressive numbers, and the success of Big Brothers Big Sisters can be traced directly to the high standards to which volunteers are held and the quality of training the organization provides.

Organizers say the program would supplement existing services already available here, not replace them. The major hurdles Big Brothers Big Sisters may encounter involves fund-raising and volunteer recruitment. Even for worthwhile programs such as this, fund-raising has become increasingly difficult, and organizers project $100,000 will be needed to start the program.

Brown County residents have proven themselves to be willing volunteers for programs that help others in the community, but the challenge for any new program will be to identify qualified individuals willing and able to help who aren’t already stretched as far as their schedules will allow — whether that’s at work, home, church or in other caring organizations.

But local residents have never failed to step forward when a need is identified and a means to address it exists. Initial organizational meetings will be held at noon and at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Family Services Center at the corner of Austin Avenue and Avenue B. For those who see this work as their calling, an opportunity has arrived.

Brownwood Bulletin