A more than century-old mentoring organization remains even more vital to helping children and teens in the 21st century, said officials with the Butler County Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
More than 500 youths on average are involved in BBBS-arranged relationships in Butler County. Across the country, 145,429 children and teens aged 6 to 18 had Big Brother or Big Sister relationships in 2018.
Studies over the years have shown that boys and girls with adult mentors are less likely to try drugs or alcohol and less prone to skipping school, officials said. But the opioid crisis of recent years has torn apart more families and made the need for adult volunteers all the more urgent, said Carolyn Winslow, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County.
“We are seeing more kids and their families affected by the opioid crisis. The kids who are coming in are great kids but they come from tough situations,” said Winslow.
Officials underlined the importance of these relationships to helping the “littles” continue to attend school. That was reinforced this monday when the BBBS of Butler County recognized multiple students in the program for graduating from area high schools.
Winslow said that, despite what some might assume, the organization doesn’t ask for much time, but passion and attention.
“Even one hour a week or three to four hours a week help,” said
Winslow is a 33-year veteran of the BBBS office and said most considering volunteering to be adult mentors don’t realize “it doesn’t take a lot of time.”
Recent local high school graduate Alexis Howard echoed Winslow, saying it’s not the quantity of time spent together with her “Big Sis” but the quality that helped her the most.
Howard, who met her Big Sis Angie Miller in 2012 while living in Middletown, recently shared a key life moment as Miller joined Howard’s mother and family in celebrating her graduation from the Warren County Career Center.
The 18-year-old now works as a paralegal in a local law firm and will attend Sinclair Community College in the fall with goal of eventually transferring to the University of Cincinnati to earn an undergraduate degree.
Howard looks back and credits the friendship and guidance of her mentor for getting her to such a promising point in her life.
“I couldn’t image what my life would be like without her (Miller). She has made such a big impact on my life,” said Howard.
“She has helped me through some troubles and helped keep my mind on school,” she said.
Howard’s mother Sharon, a single mom, also credits Miller for helping show her daughter a more promising life.
“I owe Angie (Miller) a lot of credit. She made a big difference in my daughter’s life and because of her my shy little girl became an out-going young woman,” she said.
Miller said the program was just as beneficial to her.
“The relationship with Alexis over the years has added a lot of depth to my life and purpose,” said Miller, who is a married mother of four adult children.
“And it wasn’t that hard. If I was going on a hike I’d ask Alexis if she wanted to go. If I was baking some cookies I’d ask Alexis if she wanted to come over and help.”
Winslow said the trend in children involved in the program has changed from those children coming from single-parent homes to “rougher family situations.” Regardless, said Miller, helping and guiding a youth toward adulthood is uniquely satisfying.
“It’s just doing life together – sharing life and some experiences,” said Miller. “And along the way you have some meaningful conversations.”
For more information on how to become a volunteer Big Brother or Big Sister - to donate money - go to the Butler County office’s website .
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