Companionship is embedded into our humanity. From the moment that God created Adam, he noted that it was not good that he lived alone. Though Adam was truly happy in Eden, he was not completely happy until God provided him a life partner, Eve. The COVID shutdowns have made all of us appreciate the need for companionship.
None more than children who are not just isolated from one another in a normal school environment, but also do not have any outlets for activities in their home environment. This is where Big Brother/Big Sister fills a huge void for many young people in our area.
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. It was 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.
In the past COVID year, our local affiliate has been extremely busy. They have launched an onsite program in the South Williamsport School and hosted some fourteen BBBS info sessions via Zoom for interested parents and volunteers. The board has held quarterly conference calls for Bigs throughout the pandemic to ensure safety measures and educate on resources for families and technology needs. They have distributed COVID masks to Bigs and Littles, hosted virtual engagement activities via Zoom, and distributed gift cards from local Lycoming County restaurants to the Big/Little matches.
But there are two great needs that still need to be filled — the first is to find adults willing to volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister. It cannot be emphasized enough how much it can mean to positively impact a child’s life when they are so vulnerable. Studies have shown that those young people participating in Big Brother/Big Sister are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol, 52 percent less likely to skip school, and 75 percent likely to graduate high school.
It does not require special talents or abilities. Still, those that would fill these openings must have an open heart, a kind disposition, and a willingness to be a mentor, listener, and friend for a child facing adversity. Anyone who can spare a couple of hours a week will receive back a lifetime of satisfaction.
Bigs can come from all walks of life. Joe Raup, an instructor at Penn College, is a unique “Big” because he once was a Little himself. Since 1993, he has had four Littles, all of which he still keeps in contact with. Judge Joy McCoy is another Big who felt a bit of an empty nest syndrome when her daughter went off to college and has found that she bonds with her Littles so much that she even goes to their school activities to watch them participate. Raphael Mnkandhla, a local pastor, has five small children of his own but still volunteers as a Big, which he believes even helps him be a better father. Volunteers are badly needed now as there are fourteen boys and three girls awaiting a Big Brother/Big Sister.
The second great need is financial, especially since COVID forced the cancellation of their major fundraising event last year. For those who cannot be a Big, then do something Big. Jump in between 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 10th and 11:59 p.m. Thursday, March 11th to http://www.RaiseTheRegion.org and select Big Brother/Big Sister to make a generous contribution. The funds help in a multitude of ways. To find out how to become a Big, or just to learn more about this organization, check out their website: http://www.bbbsnepa.com/lycoming.