Why Not Become a ‘Big Brother’?
Growing up is difficult these days for almost everyone. But for those living in households with no or insufficient income, a history of family problems (such as mental illness), an incarcerated parent, or any number of other challenging situations, the struggle to succeed can seem insurmountable. Without positive role models, it’s all too easy for negative patterns to repeat, keeping children from reaching their full potential.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma steps up to provide role models and friendships to those youth that might otherwise have nowhere to turn. I spoke with Blossom Crews, area director, Norman and Shawnee Big Brothers Big Sisters, about their organization and the need for more mentors, especially male ones.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Our vision is that all children achieve success in life.
When were you founded?
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America was founded in 1904; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma was founded in 2006 with the merger of five separate Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies into one statewide organization. Our Norman office has been active since 1969.
What programs and services do you offer?
BBBSOK provides one-to-one mentoring services through two avenues. In our school-/site-based program, Bigs provide Littles individualized time and attention on a regular basis at the Little’s school or after-school program like Boys & Girls Club. Bigs and Littles meet weekly during school hours and utilize school resources such as the computer lab, library, gym, classroom or playground. The Big-Little relationship promotes a positive school experience for the child: good attendance, positive peer and adult relationships, a positive attitude and academic achievement. Ideally, matches continue from one school year to the next. During school breaks, the volunteer and child are encouraged to maintain their relationship through emails, letters or phone calls.
In our community-based program, Bigs offer Littles the same individualized attention on a consistent basis, typically 3-4 times per month for two to three hours each time out in the community, sharing activities they mutually enjoy. They develop a trusting, caring relationship that provides an outlet for the Little and a model of how to handle everyday challenges. Over time, our Littles gain confidence, nurture new skills and competencies, and develop an enhanced capacity to care for others.
What areas do you serve?
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma is a statewide organization with offices in Norman, Oklahoma City, Shawnee, Stillwater, Ponca City, Bartlesville and Tulsa. The children and youth we serve are typically from low-income, single-parent/guardian households who, without BBBSOK services, may never have access to positive and transformational experiences with a mentor. A growing percent of the children we serve (43%) are children of incarcerated parents.
What unique needs does your organization face?
Many services provided by state agencies have been cut in an attempt to balance the budget, leaving many Oklahoma children without needed services. As a result, the demand for mentoring program services continues to increase. Without our effective mentoring program, many of Oklahoma’s vulnerable youth may succumb to complex challenges, including poverty, parental incarceration and increased vulnerability for incarceration, underage drug/alcohol abuse, early parenting, poor academic performance and dropping out of school.
We have an ongoing need for mentors to match with our Waiting Littles. The waiting list for Big Brothers is especially long. In early May, of the 64 Littles waiting to be matched, 51 were boys.
How can people help?
Anyone over 18 can apply to be a mentor. FMI, visit bbsok.org/volunteer. To financially support the BBBSOK mentoring programs, visit bbbsok.org.