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Big Brothers Big Sisters

March 02, 2011|By HARRY NOGLE

Providing positive role models and enhancing and encouraging self-esteem are the Mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.   Big Brothers and Big Sisters strives to improve the quality of life for children and single-parent families, and for the community at large.
   
A Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Couple becomes a friend, confidant and mentor.

“Dave Cole was my Big Brother for 3 or 4 years,” said JD Pearl.  “Dave had a Jeep and we would go off 4-wheeling,” JD said.  “It was the little things we did that I remember very vividly.”

The relationship provides the “Little” with an increased sense of belonging, and often leads to enhanced communication skills and improved performance at home, school and in the community.  The “Bigs” and “Littles” have fun together and, ultimately, the volunteer benefits too by “giving something back” and truly making a difference in the life of a child.

“I was a Big Sister to my Little Sister, Carrie, for three years,” said Kris Pearl, JD’s wife.  

“We would get together about once a week and talk on the phone other times,” she said.

Kris, who is an assistant principal at an elementary school, decided to become a Big Sister because she is always looking for ways to help kids.

“I discovered being a Big Sister is another way to help another kid,” Kris said.

Each carefully screened volunteer commits to spending a few hours each week for a minimum of one year with their Little Brother or Little Sister.  Together they share experiences, accomplishments and concerns.  A professional Casework Supervisor provides supervision and support, and works with the volunteer, child and family to set goals for the match.

The agency also sponsors group activities every other month during the year for both matched and unmatched Littles.  

“Carrie and I went to the Halloween Party, the Road Rally and The Bowl for Kids’ Sake,” Kris said.

“My Big Brother, Dave, was a jogger, so we would jog together from time to time,” JD said.  

“One time I got ahead of him during a run and tried to beat him to the finish,” JD said.  “But Dave was an experienced runner and just cruised past me to the finish,” he said.

A recent study conducted by Public/Private Ventures, a respected national research firm based in Philadelphia, examined the impact of mentoring on youth.  Public/Private Ventures found that Little Brothers and Little Sisters who met with their volunteer “Bigs” regularly for a year were

  • 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
  • 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.
  • 33% less likely to get in fights or to hit someone.
  • More trusting of their parents or guardians, less likely to lie to them, and felt more supported and less criticized by their peers and friends.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County has been serving children in our local community since 1956 by “matching” adult mentors in the community-based program with at-risk youth, based on a child’s specific needs and common interests.  Through these one-to-one friendships, the program has helped hundreds of children increase their self-confidence, reach their full potential, and see themselves – often for the first time – as having happy and successful futures.

A school-based program serving students at Eastern Elementary School was started in 2002.   Adult mentors meet with students referred by a classroom teacher for at least one hour in a school setting.  They help the student with their school work, take time to talk with the child or make use of “school space.”

Policy and program guidelines are established by a community-based Board of Directors. The agency is affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and follows national program standards and procedures.

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