“We have a waiting list to get on to the waiting list,” BBBS of Butler County CEO Scott Stephens said.
Stephens said since the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a nationwide dip in volunteers for all youth programs, not just BBBS, but his local chapter is feeling the impact hard.
Currently, he has more than 150 children waiting to be matched with a mentor.
But the pandemic wasn’t the only roadblock. Stephens said there’s also a lingering misconception about the time and experience needed to be a “Big” to a “Little”.
“We need to get those people who have some time on their hand to give a little bit of themselves to make someone else’s life different,” he said.
There are two ways to get involved: site-based or community-based.
The former pairs student and adult mentors with young children in elementary schools throughout Butler County. Site-based matches meet for 90 minutes in a group setting once a week after school.
Community-based matches are more intensive yet more flexible and still only require a few hours each month. It’s the traditional BBBS relationship, where Bigs and Littles get together on their own to share fun activities they both enjoy. Bigs are first introduced to the child and parent or guardian in a pre-match meeting. Bigs and Littles plan outings together based on mutual interests.
“It’s spending time with someone and you’re going to expose them to something that they may never have had a chance, or will ever get a chance to experience,” he said. “It can be simple things. In the past, I had a child who had never used forks and knives before. It’s all been finger food. (He and his Big) went into a steak place and the little brother was watching every move he made on how to use a fork and a knife and that’s when it dawned on him. He had never been to a restaurant before.”
To get volunteer recruitment up, the program is joining in on BBBS’ new nationwide campaign “It takes Little to be Big.”
It aims to engage and galvanize local alumni and supporters to highlight their own pivotal mentorship moments and experiences, no matter how small, through a new digital storytelling initiative, “A Million Little Moments.” This tapestry of stories will demonstrate the significance of impact and universality of mentorship moments, Stephens said.
“We want to hear about your success,” Stephens said. “Some of these Littles who are now adults could be volunteers again. Some of these volunteers who haven’t done it in a few years, maybe it’s time to get back involved again.”
If you’re interested in closing the gap and becoming a mentor to one of the more than 150 kids on Butler County’s waiting list, you can find information at bbbsbutler.org/volunteer-2.