A Big need
Local organization in need of mentors
By Josephine Hinderman
GREEN BAY – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin (BBBSNEW) is experiencing a shortage of mentors who can provide an opportunity for communication, bonding and support to local youths.
Since opening in Brown County in 1977, the organization has served the area by providing a “donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network [where] Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (Bigs) and children (Littles).”
“The biggest need we have is for mentors right now… Our recruitment post-pandemic has been struggling. We’re still getting people but it’s not nearly the same, and now we’re getting more kids than ever post-COVID… Now some of our kiddos are on a waitlist for mentors from six months to a year, and we have about 100 kiddos on the list,” said Keren Marsh, program specialist for BBBSNEW.
“The mentors we have come from all walks of life — business owners, educators, retired folks — it’s just about being a caring adult, so there’s no special education or requirement needed.
“Basically what we look for is everyday people who care and want to be a friend and caring person to kids in the community. We have amazing kiddos, and people volunteer here because they want to and they care.
“I believe that there is a misconception that the kids in our programs are troubled or are in the juvenile system, when in reality they come from supportive families that help set up a mentor match… kids come to us if they struggle with friendships, have confidence issues or have no siblings or may have a busy family life. We work with all sorts of kids with all sorts of different needs.”
BBBSNEW provides two programs that people can work with — community- and site-based programs — with the community-based program being the most in need of mentors.
As a mentor, a person is expected to meet with their matched child at least twice a month, with a year-long commitment to the program, while the site-based programs require a commitment that runs the school year.
“People can get concerned about time commitments, but it’s only about four hours a month, or more if you’re willing to give more,” said Marsh.
Marsh emphasized that anybody and everybody can be a volunteer, which has its benefits.
“We have more boys than girls on the waitlist, so we always have a need for male mentors,” she said. “For our younger, college-age Bigs they have an opportunity for resume-building, and having [BBBS] on your resume looks great. You also have these opportunities to work with someone not from your generation, who’s younger than you, and that helps expand your world view. You also just have a chance to take a break and have fun.
“[Mentors and their kids] can go out and about and do things in the community like going to the park, go get ice cream, go to the movies… . I think as adults we forget how to play and do things like going to the park for fun, and [BBBSNEW] is the perfect opportunity to get back to that while also making a major difference for a local kid,” said Marsh.
She also added, “It’s not meant to be a financial burden.”
Mentors and their kids can also qualify for low-cost activities hosted by the organization and “tons of local discounts.”
There are also other volunteer opportunities available to those who are unable to make a commitment of being a mentor.
“There’s a lot of different ways to get involved… If people don’t feel like they can commit, we have events where we need volunteers,” said Marsh.
The “Miles for Matches,” a community bike ride event, is set to take place from 9 a.m. – noon on Aug. 5 at the downtown Green Bay City Deck.
“You can donate supplies to us from our Wal-Mart and Amazon wish lists. You can make monetary donations through our website, but word of mouth is the best thing that, I think, people could do when helping our organization,” Marsh added.
“I can truly feel the impact we have on the community bit-by-bit, and you really notice changes in the kiddos we work with as they grow up. Ultimately, community support means a lot.”
To learn more, visit bbbsnew.org, call (920) 498-2227 or visit BBBSNEW, 520 N. Broadway St., Suite 220, Green Bay.