Fifty Years and Still Going Strong!
Fifty years and still going strong, Cleveland County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has a lot to celebrate this year, and there are always ways for people to get involved. I spoke recently with Blossom Crews, Big Brothers Big Sisters area director, about the organization’s goals in taking on the next half-century of serving the community and how our readers can help support their cause.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network. Adult volunteers (Bigs) and children (Littles) ages 6-18 are matched in communities across the country. Together, they develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.
Matches are made through one of two methods, Blossom says. In the site-based program, matches meet at the Little’s school weekly for around an hour. They use the school’s facilities, including playgrounds, libraries and cafeterias. Meet-ups are on a specified day/time each week that work for both the Big and the Little. In the community-based program, Bigs and Littles participate in activities within the community, like park visits, attending football games or going out to movies. In this program, the Bigs usually pick up their little at home two to three times a month.
“In 2018, we served 287 children,” Blossom notes, adding, “We are on track to serve 304 children in 2019.”
The continued success of BBBS is dependent on several factors. In the short term, goals include matching all the Littles on their waiting list with caring, consistent adults who will spend time one-to-one with them. BBBS must also raise the funds needed to make these new matches and support current ones. Looking toward the future, long-term goals consist of making long, lasting matches to help all Littles reach their full potential.
In a unique twist, Blossom has been using videos made with her dogs to help raise money for the Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser. Bigs also sometimes bring their own pets along on their outings and will post pics of the trips with their animals. “This is a unique way to bring attention to the meaningful work we do,” says Blossom.
Luckily, there are many ways for members of the community to help out. Mentors are always needed, as 61 kids ages 6-16 are ready to be matched and another 33 are currently in the enrollment process. Volunteers must be at least 18. BBBS are looking for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Big Couples.
In celebration of their 50th anniversary serving children who face adversity in Cleveland County, BBBS will host “A Big Night in Norman” gala on Aug. 23 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman Hotel & Conference Center. Area restaurants will be offering delicious bites, and those in attendance will be able to take part in both a live and silent auction while enjoying live entertainment. All proceeds from the event will support the local mentoring program. To find out more about the event, visit BigNightNorman.org. Your attendance will help BBBS celebrate matches made over the past 50 years and lay the foundation to support matches for the next 50 years.
Yet another way to support BBBS is through a monetary gift. Much time is spent upfront to create successful matches. To ensure their Littles’ safety stays their top priority, volunteers go through an interview process, as well as reference and complete background checks. Children and parents also are interviewed to create the best matches possible based on interests and preferences. Once a match is made, a program specialist stays in touch with all parties to answer any questions and address any concerns that may arise. All of this takes financial resources and the community’s support.
Blossom says the organization also welcomes donations of art supplies, games and other items as well for use in the School-Based program.
With so many ways to get involved, Cleveland County Lifestyle readers can help BBBS make and maintain matches for the next 50 years and beyond.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cleveland County
502 E Main St., Norman, OK 73071