Positions Open: Candidates do not need special talents or abilities, but those that would fill these opening must have an open heart, a kind disposition, and a willingness to be a mentor, listener, and friend for a child facing adversity. The benefit package is the satisfaction of knowing that you can change the life of a young person for the better…forever.
Big Brother Big Sisters of the Bridge serving Lycoming County is an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a nationally recognized mentoring program. Originally started in 1904 by a New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter who recognized that the boys coming through his courtroom could be helped if they had a caring adult to help them stay out of trouble. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement, which today provides high quality mentoring services to over a quarter of a million children and families in 470 chapters throughout the United States.
It would not be till 1974 before Lycoming County would have a Big Brother Big Sister program, and it eventually dissolved in 2005 due to financial difficulties. After a ten year lull, Rick Saylor, clinical director of Lycoming County’s Children and Youth, revamped the program and got it up and running again. Though Saylor has retired from Children/Youth, the county continues to provide necessary funding to keep the program running.
But as critical as finances are, volunteers are needed even more. “Bigs” as they are called, are from all walks of life. Joe Raup, an instructor at Penn College, is a unique “Big” because he once was a “Little.” In 1982, he was taken under the wing of a mentor who he attributes turning his life around. Twelve years later, in 1994, he had the chance to do the same. Joe was living in Los Angeles at the time and became a Big Brother to an eleven-year old Little named Dennis. Over the years, the relationship continued, even as “Little” Dennis has grown and is now in his 40s. Their relationship never stopped, even living thousands of miles apart. Joe notes that Dennis considers him like an actual brother.
Judge Joy McCoy is also a Big Sister, and admits she got involved because her daughter had gone off to college and she wanted someone to share her life activities. Joy takes her Little Sister to the movies, and goes to see her Little when she participates in her high school sport events. The judge admits that because of her Little, she goes to events such as the Hershey Christmas festivities that she would probably not attend, yet afterwards is thankful for the experience. This sums Joy’s overall experience as a Big, she receives more than she gives.
That is the wonder and the fun of being a Big Brother or Big Sister. It is celebrating the joy of everyday moments through a child’s eyes. It is sharing in a young person’s life-moments and thus bringing magic to the mundane. Through the simple stuff of life, Big Brothers and Big Sisters inspire, ignite, and empower potential in young lives.
Evidence-based studies have shown that the mentoring that comes from Big Brothers Big Sisters really and truly makes a difference. After 18 months, over half were less likely to have started using illegal drugs, a quarter were less likely to use alcohol, and a third with anger issues were experiencing fewer outbursts.
But (and this is a big, big BUT), none of this happens unless there are those who are willing to step up “Big” time. God gives us all 168 hours every week, could we not give one of those hours to help change a child’s life? Right now, there are 19 Littles in Lycoming County, fifteen young boys and four girls, who are waiting for a Big Brother/Big Sister. Sadly, some have been waiting over a year.
Willing to check it out? Go to the website: bbbsnepa.com, and you will see a big heading, “Be a Mentor.” That will get you started. If nothing else, participate in Bowl for Kid’s Sake on March 28th from 1-4 PM at Faxon Lanes on River Avenue in Williamsport, or give during the Raise the Region Fundraiser on March 11-12. Remember the words of the great abolitionist and statesman, Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: email@example.com.