Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County turns 30, over 7,500 young-adult couples
BBBS’s mission is to create and support one-on-one mentoring relationships for young people. Since 1991, BBBS has matched and supported 7,600 youth (called “Littles”) and adult mentors (“Bigs”) across Washtenaw County. Today, Executive Director Jennifer Spitler wants people to know that there are 125 children on the waiting list to become Littles.
“They like to do fun things like going to the park [or] go to U of M ball games, for which we sometimes get free tickets. They love to paint their nails. They love to sing silly songs, ”says Spitler. “They love to do all the fun things you loved to do as a kid. They just need someone to spend time and listen and walk with them. “
Spitler says couples transform into relationships that positively affect social, emotional, academic, and healthy risk behaviors. She says these relationships have supported the organization over the years. Spending time with a grown-up gives a little one the opportunity to be seen and heard.
“It’s just amazing to see these kids growing up before our eyes. Some games lasted up to 12 years old,” she said. “We see time and time again that these children gain the confidence to reach higher and strive to achieve more.”
The past 30 years have not been without challenges. BBBS relies on volunteers and it has been a little more difficult to get people through the doors in recent years. Spitler says this may be because community members are increasingly engaging in short-term opportunities, while BBBS requires a full year commitment – but only twice a month.
“When we tell a child that someone will be in their life for a year, we want to make sure that happens,” she says. “There are some walk-in volunteering models that are awesome. It’s just not us, so we take a little bit of it so that we can serve more children.
Currently, the organization is running a # BIG30 fundraising campaign to celebrate. The campaign, which also aims to educate and attract new volunteers, even received kudos on social media from former University of Michigan catcher Desmond Howard. (This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Howard’s Heisman Trophy victory in 1991.)
Spitler invites the community to get involved in the # BIG30 celebration by learning more about the work of BBBS, becoming a Big, or making a donation.
“If you think about your life, most people had people who were their champions, their cheerleaders and their mentors. And a lot of us had people outside of our families who provided that extra support. of our family, ”she says. “Sometimes you need to hear something from someone else outside of your family to really believe in yourself.”
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of BBBS.