Nonprofit Spotlight: Big Brothers Big Sisters
Each week, we profile a different organization
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the largest donor and volunteer supported network in the country. The nonprofit, which pairs adults with children as part of a mentorship program, has an office on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
Patch recently talked to Gerri Freid Kramer, senior communications specialist for BBBS, about what the organization does and how you can get involved.
Patch: What is the purpose of BBBS?
BBBS: The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to provide children who are facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives forever.
Patch: What's the history and background of the organization?
BBBS: Big Brothers Big Sisters is a donor-supported volunteer agency. For more than 45 years in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties, and more than 100 years nationally, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”).
Patch: Why is it important for an organization like BBBS to have a presence in this community?
BBBS: The children in our community are our future and our present. We serve kids caught in unfortunate circumstances—kids living in high-risk neighborhoods who need extra attention, support and guidance. About 90 percent of them live at or near the poverty line. Our research shows that when these children have Big Brothers or Big Sisters in their lives, they have increased confidence, more success in school and a more positive outlook on life. You know, it costs about $1,000 a year to support a match between a “Big” and a “Little,” which pays for background screening, training and ongoing support and supervision. On the other hand, incarcerating a youth costs $60,000 a year. Keeping these kids out of trouble is absolutely a worthwhile investment, whichever way you look at it.
Patch: How many children have been mentored since the organization began? What age range of kids can be involved in the program?
BBBS: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay currently has more than 2,000 Little Brothers and Little Sisters who are matched up with mentors and we’ve been serving that number consistently for many years now. And we always have more youth waiting for mentors. We especially need Big Brothers.
Our Little Brothers and Little Sisters range in age from about 7 years old through high school. Mentors commit to the program for at least a year, but many form relationships with these kids that last for years and years and we encourage that. The longer-term relationships have the greatest impact. Most of our volunteers are what we call community-based Bigs—they spend nine hours a month doing low or no-cost activities out in the community with their Littles. We also have a site-based program where Bigs visit their Littles at school for an hour a week. In fact, there’s a high school leadership group at Gaither High School that mentors students at Claywell Elementary.
Patch: How can people get involved if they want to volunteer or mentor?
BBBS: Anyone interested in becoming a mentor or donating funds to support our programs can call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay at (813) 769-3600, or enroll online at www.bbbsfl.org. Almost anyone can be a good mentor. Our “Bigs” are community members from all walks of life—from high school and college students to retired professionals.
For more information on BBBS, call (813) 769-3600.