Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina launched its biggest recruitment drive of the year May 1, seeking 100 mentors in 30 days. The organization is working to sign up many new Jackson County “Bigs” to have fun with local kids.
The need for adult mentors is strong in all 18 westernmost counties that BBBSWNC operates in.
Nearly three out of four enrolled “Littles” in the region live with a single parent or grandparents and could benefit from having an adult pal to do things with.
“Every day, I see the tremendous impacts that support has on young people and on mentors,” said Jamye Davis, BBBSWNC executive vice president of programs. “I think one reason more adults haven’t gotten involved is the impression that it’s a huge time commitment. The reality is that we ask Bigs to share several hours two times a month with a child. We provide support, training and group activities.”
“There are so many fun activities Bigs and Littles can do in Jackson County, such as attending a sporting event at Western Carolina University or walking the greenway,” said Stephen Hunter, Jackson County program coordinator for BBBS. You could go hiking on some of the local trails or go to the Jackson County Library. Littles in our area are looking for someone just to be there for them, have someone they could talk to, and someone to have fun with.”
Studies bear out the benefits of such “matches.” BBBSWNC’s 2021 youth outcome surveys indicate that among Littles matched with Bigs, 90 percent improved in self-confidence, 86 percent improved their behavior in school, 79 percent became better at solving problems, 75 percent attended school more regularly and 71 percent were more eager to learn in school.
Once vetted and trained by BBBSWNC, being a Big is no big deal. Bigs are asked to hang out with their Littles a few hours each month. School-based Bigs meet their Littles at school, talking, going over homework, and doing something fun like shooting a basketball or making art.
Community-based Bigs meet at or take their Littles on BBBS-approved activities, such as getting ice cream, seeing movies or just walking in the park.
Activities that BBBS staff have guided matches on have included hikes, lake canoeing, picnics, llama walks, snow tubing, baseball games, and community gardening. On their own, matches take in shows, go out to eat, visit local museums and colleges, and volunteer at events, among other activities.
Littles may lead Bigs to new adventures, as well. Bigs, supported throughout by professional BBBS staff, often say they get more out of the experience than their Littles. Some people remain good friends for life.