Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

November 20, 2013

Big Brothers Big Sisters to hold mentor round up

By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – In 1904, a young court clerk in New York City named Ernest Coulter noticed an increasing number of young boys coming through the court and founded Big Brothers so caring adults could spent time with the youths and help them reach their potential through positive, healthy relationships.

Coulter started Big Brothers with 39 volunteers, each of which had agreed to befriend one boy and be a positive example in his life. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities across the country, changing the lives of the young boys involved forever.

Close to the same time, a group called Ladies of Charity was befriending young girls who came through the New York Children’s Court. Ladies of Charity later became Catholic Big sisters. Both groups worked independently until Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International became Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS)of America in 1977. Currently, BBBS programs operate in all 50 states and 12 countries around the world.

The organization’s century of service to the nation’s youth has had a profound and measurable impact among the children who have been involved in the various programs offered by BBBS. National research has shown that the little brothers and sisters who participate in the youth mentoring programs are more confident in their schoolwork, leading to better grades; able to get along with their families better, leading to happier home lives; 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs; 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

Positive results like that are hard to argue with. Locally, BBBS serves the children of Decatur County with a variety of programs for children of different ages, like the school program, where volunteers spend 30 minutes each week having lunch with their little elementary school-aged brother or sister at school and spending time together, or the community program where Big Brothers and Sisters spend one on one time with their little brother or sister on a weekly basis. However, the organization finds itself with a shortage of volunteers to act as mentors.

Currently, more than 400 children in Decatur County are involved with some kind of BBBS program, with more than 200 elementary school students in the school program. Katie Stoffel, of the Decatur County BBBS, said that many of the mentors in the school program are retired people and college students who make time to have lunch with their little brother or sister once a week.

Anytime Fitness and BBBS have partnered for the month of November in the hopes of bringing in more mentor volunteers, as well as donations to continue running the organization. Jody Coffman, of Anytime Fitness, said the company chooses a local organization to benefit from their annual fundraiser each year. Coffman said children are near to the hearts of the staff at Anytime Fitness and that is one of the reasons they chose BBBS to work with.

“Child obesity is on a huge uprise. We are trying to do our part to make it known that if we have healthy bigs, they can pass that information along down to their littles. Exercise can be fun too. It’s not always just about sweating,” Coffman said.

Anytime Fitness has a number of activities going through the month of November to raise money and awareness for BBBS. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 25, each new membership or personal training session will raise a $10 donation for BBBS. On Nov. 25, 100 percent of enrollment fees for new memberships or personal training sessions will be donated to BBBS. Beginning at 6 p.m. on the 25th, members at Anytime Fitness can pay $10 or more to take part in the “Train Your Trainer” event, with BBBS getting the proceeds.

In addition, Anytime Fitness will be holding a 24 hour “Walk for Kids’ Sake” walkathon, beginning at midnight on Nov. 25 and ending at midnight the next day. A designated treadmill will be set up for participants to walk on and the entire walkathon will take place inside Anytime Fitness. Jeff Emsweller, Brian Robbins and Ed Daihl will be on-hand to motivate walkers. Those wishing to donate may pledge a certain amount per mile walked or make a one-time donation.

Also on Nov. 25 will be the BBBS “Mentor Round-up” at Anytime Fitness. Beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting until roughly 8 p.m., workers from BBBS will be on-site with information about mentoring and all the required applications to enter the organization as a big brother or sister. Snacks and drinks will be provided. Stoffel said that BBBS tries to keep a 1 to 1 ratio of big mentors to little siblings, but due to a shortage of volunteers, there are still children on the waiting list, particularly little boys without a male mentor.

When becoming a mentor, one can expect to file the initial application, go through an intense screening process and have a background check, regardless of whether they are involved in the school or community programs. Those in the community program will be asked to provide personal and employer references and go through an additional home interview with a BBBS case worker. After being partnered, case workers will make weekly contact the first month, followed by monthly contact for the first year, after which case worker contact is completed quarterly. Parents approve big sibling matches with their children, as well as approving all activities.

Becoming a mentor does not cost anything, though if the mentor takes their little sibling somewhere, they usually cover the cost. Generally, BBBS tries to promote activities that don’t require money because the mentor’s presence is the valuable commodity. Going to the library or the park are popular activities. While meeting in person isn’t required each week, BBBS asks that the mentor maintain some kind of contact with their little sibling, whether it be by phone or email or in person.

“BBBS advocates doing things that don’t cost money. Their time and influence are the important things,” Stoffel said.

Stoffel added that BBBS always needs mentors and that there is a match for almost anyone. A wide variety of people have found enjoyment in being a positive influence for a child though BBBS. Donations are always accepted to assist with the running of the organization for those who wish to help but are unable to commit their time regularly.

“We do appreciate all the mentors that we have. We appreciate the time they spend with the children and being the positive influence that they are and that the kids need. We just appreciate all they do,” Stoffel said.

Anyone interested in obtaining more information about BBBS and the services they provide may do so at www.bbbsgreensburg.org or by calling 812-663-7556.

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004 amanda.browning@greensburgdailynews.com