The program works by matching a child between the ages of 7 and 16 with an adult volunteer, aged 20 and over, who is required to meet with the child at least once a week for a minimum of one year, explained Steve Barnett, the agency's volunteer resource manager.
There is more of a need for male minority volunteers, Barnett added.
The main purpose of the program is to provide one-on-one relationships to children who are typically from a single- parent household.
"We want the big brothers and big sisters to include their little brothers and sisters in their everyday, ordinary schedule," Barnett said. "We're not asking them to do anything above what they do normally, just make a positive impression and change in their life."
Each applicant must go through a thorough screening process and background check before being matched with a child, Barnett said.
Case workers employed by Big Brothers/Big Sisters will work with the parents, children and volunteers.
Though the agency is based in Chambersburg, the organization is looking for volunteers from all over Franklin County to become part of a 15-member advisory board and to establish local committees from surrounding towns, said David Pankiw, who has pursued the idea of having a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in the county since 1992.
"We don't want to alienate the communities. We know how important local contact is," Pankiw said.
The organization will be funded in part by Community Development Block Grants, federal money given to communities for special projects.
The county is also supplying the organization with the building - for at least three years - a telephone, and other services.
Several local fund-raisers are also being planned, the first to be held this Saturday at the 16th annual Arts and Crafts Fair at Caledonia State Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where the agency will be selling food and drinks.
The idea to start a local agency evolved from members of the Rotary Club in Chambersburg. Pankiw, a former big brother in Wilmington, Del., along with other members, began preliminary contacts with the national organization to find out what could be done in Franklin County.
The effort slowed considerably a few years later when organizers couldn't come up with enough money, Pankiw said.
The organizers later joined with Franklin County commissioners who were considering plans to bring the organization to the county themselves, unaware of the local effort.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, a board member, or a participant, or for more information about the program, should call Big Brothers/Big Sisters at 1-717-261-0094.