It’s rewarding. It’s fun. It’s a self-esteem booster. And most importantly, it’s empowering the future. That’s what being a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County is like.
“The children are always so grateful to be spending time with their Big Brother or Big Sister. They look up to you,” says Jenny Bruns, executive director of the organization’s mentoring program. “And a lot of times, the volunteers are doing fun things they would never have done otherwise.”
Join in the Vision
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County is in need of more adult and high school-age volunteers as they have 23 children who currently don’t have a Big Brother Big Sister match.
“We always have more children signed up than volunteers,” Jenny says.
That’s why the recent donation from Mercer Savings Bank will go toward volunteer recruitment efforts. Mercer Savings Bank is proud to select Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County as the September recipient of its Giving Mission donation.
Volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest volunteer-supported mentoring program, with the Shelby-Darke County organization currently serving 311 children.
When a child is referred to the program, either by a parent, school official or social service organization, the goal is to match that child with an adult or high school-aged volunteer. All volunteers are interviewed and screened before they are matched.
Once a volunteer is approved, they are simply asked to spend time with the child doing fun activities together. The children matched are ages 5-16, but Jenny says it’s not uncommon for the relationship to become strong and naturally extend until they are in college or even beyond.
“I really like having Richard as my Big Brother. He is special to me because he pays attention to me and teaches me new things. He has a lot of life experience, and I enjoy the talks that we have together … Some of our favorite things to do together is going to the movies, basketball games, museums and going out for ice cream. We love having our ice cream after a good day together.” – quote from a Little at the Shelby Darke organization
Getting Matched with a Little
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County has four programs that match Littles with Bigs. These include:
- Community-Based/Couples Match. This is when an adult-aged Big Brother or Big Sister or a couple is matched with a child-aged Little Brother or Little Sister. The Bigs and Littles enjoy fun activities together, such as fishing, playing board games or baking cookies, on their own schedule at least two times per month.
- Big Buddies. Big Buddies is a nine-month program where high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors volunteer two times per month to mentor elementary students. During these meetings, high school students, under the supervision of Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, work with one or two children on different educational and recreational activities.
- Lunch Buddies. Lunch Buddies is a 1-to-1 mentoring program at Jackson Center Elementary School where adult volunteers are matched with a 2nd- or 3rd-grade student. Once a week, volunteers eat lunch with the students, assist with school work or play games, all while building a positive friendship.
- Career Quest. Career Quest is a partnership with Sidney High School’s Opportunity School. This program matches adult volunteers with graduation credit-deficient high school students to help them get on track for graduation and prepared for future careers.
Jenny says the Big Buddies program is most in need of volunteers. “This is such a wonderful program for both the Big and Little,” she says. The high school students who volunteer often gain community service credit for school clubs or a church organization, and they can list the experience on college applications.
“They learn leadership skills and conflict resolution. And many times, these high school kids just enjoy being ‘the kid’ that is still inside them. They will play kickball with their Little and get down on their level and have fun,” Jenny says. “The Littles love it. They often idolize their Big. And that’s a real self-esteem boost for the high school kids.”
Jenny says there are a few misconceptions about the organization, such as that the children served are “troubled” youth or who have behavioral issues. This is simply not true, she says.
The children served are simply looking for a mentor and someone to build a friendship with. They already have a parent or guardian in their lives. What they seek is a Big to spend quality time with – someone to have fun with; someone they can confide in.
Another misconception she has heard is that being a volunteer is a huge time commitment. Again, this is untrue. The adult community-based volunteers are asked to donate their time twice a month – that’s it.
“I know people are busy, but all we are asking is to fit twice a month in your schedule,” Jenny says. Those fun activities with a Little can be a breath of fresh air in the midst of a hectic week.
What’s unique about the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program is they have dedicated professional support staff who provide monthly support to the volunteer, child, and his or her parent. The support staff check in each month to ask how they are doing, how they are spending their time together, and to offer suggestions and any additional support needed.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby & Darke County also plans group outings for its Bigs and Littles. They recently organized, planned and paid for a group outing to Ohio Caverns, which makes it even easier for the volunteer and provides an opportunity for all Bigs and Littles to connect.
“Along with giving back to the community as a volunteer, you are building a relationship. It’s more rewarding than I can even describe,” Jenny says.
A volunteer herself, Jenny and her Little recently created a bucket list of items to do together “It was great,” she says. “I am exploring activities I’ve never done before and eating places I’ve never been.”
She says another Big who did the same bucket list activity with her Little was pleasantly surprised when her Little listed “milking a cow.” And that’s just what they did together.
Volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters is more than just giving back. It’s opening minds, empowering others and igniting potential in the youth who are our future.
Ready to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters?
“We were so excited to hear we were chosen for the donation,” Jenny says. “It will be put to very good use, and we are very grateful and appreciative to Mercer Savings Bank.”