One of the top mentoring nonprofit organizations in southwest Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast has had a significant positive impact on numerous children and teenagers throughout the region. Throughout all of its activities, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains firmly dedicated to the safety of children involved in its programs. The Sun Coast chapter strictly adheres to the Big Brothers Big Sisters National Standards of Excellence, which detail the recruitment and onboarding process for prospective “Bigs.”
The match process begins with a thorough screening of all potential Bigs, including a formal written application, background and reference checks, and an in-person interview. The organization also conducts an in-depth orientation and training process, which explains the individual needs of the child and provides a wealth of resources on child development and the best ways to encourage it.
To learn more about child safety at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, visit http://www.bbbssun.org.
Throughout its history in the Fort Myers, Florida, area, the Uncommon Friends Foundation has become known as a leader in business ethics and character development. In 2008, the foundation launched its Legacy Speaker Series, designed to bring together individuals who embody the mission and vision of the Uncommon Friends Foundation.
The first Legacy Speaker Series welcomed renowned news anchor Tom Brokaw to southwest Florida to educate, motivate, and inspire. Since then, the series has included a broad range of guests who demonstrate characteristics such as exemplary leadership to be emulated by youth, a spirit of adventure, and a desire to improve quality of life. In the same vein, Legacy Speakers have often dedicated themselves to the advancement of fields such as visual and performing arts, business and industry, and science and technology. In recent years, the Legacy Speaker Series has included speakers such as broadcaster Walter Cronkite, former congressman and CIA director Porter Goss, and authors Reeve Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
The mentoring programs of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in Lee County, Florida, have helped thousands of people grow up with support and encouragement. In a recent publication, the organization highlighted two alumni whose experiences as Littles helped them succeed in life.
The first was a child with no father. After joining the program in 1968, he and his mentor spent afternoons and weekends together, with the mentor taking him to sporting events and teaching him skills. His mentor later helped him get into trade school, which led him to a lucrative career in construction.
The second child joined the program in 1996. The organization paired him with a 70-year-old mentor, and though it took the two of them some time to bond, they eventually came to enjoy weekly games of checkers. The mentor took the Little to sporting events and got him involved in volunteer work at retirement homes. The Little went on to graduate from high school and then college, and when his mother passed away, he stepped into the role of mentor for his younger sister by becoming her legal guardian.
The Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, DC, helps individuals confront and deal with their grief in constructive ways. Understanding that grieving children often face unique challenges, the organization seeks to foster community and connection through Camp Forget-Me-Not and Camp Erin DC, which are open to young people between the ages of 6 and 16 who have experienced loss. These camps are not designed as therapy but rather as a venue for relaxation and exploration.
These two camps endeavor to create supportive, understanding environments where children can express their thoughts and emotions and feel both safe and heard. Each camper is paired with an adult volunteer for the weekend. These “buddies” are volunteers who receive extensive training and serve as models for operating within the grief process. Additionally, licensed therapists and counselors lead sessions throughout the camp experience.
Both camps also offer the traditional camp experiences, from swimming and canoeing to campfire activities and crafts, as well as specialty activities like initiative and confidence courses, music therapy, journaling, and meditation.
A recent Florida campaign called Real Men Mentor brought to light a major issue affecting Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations around the nation. Apparently, men make up less than 40 percent of the mentor pool, yet more than 50 percent of the children served by the organization are young boys.
The particular chapter in Florida that started the campaign has nearly 300 young boys hoping to be paired with a male mentor. While transformation can still happen with Little Brothers who are connected to Big Sisters, many young men need a reliable, stable male mentor in their lives.
Nationally, about 70 percent of children awaiting matches are boys. Research shows that a positive male role model can make a major difference in a young boy’s life by recognizing his potential and encouraging him to follow a path toward success in both school and the real world.
Becoming a Big Brother requires only a few hours a couple of times each month, but that small amount of time can have an immeasurable impact on another person’s life. Individuals can learn more about the process of becoming a mentor online at BBBS.org or by contacting a local branch of the organization.
Since 1992, the Uncommon Friends Foundation has worked to preserve the historic Burroughs Home. Built in 1901, the house became a cultural centerpiece of Florida’s Fort Myers River District. Its owner, Nelson T. Burroughs, enjoyed a lifelong friendship with Uncommon Friends founder Jim Newton and welcomed a variety of prominent guests to his now-historic home, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In honor of this camaraderie, Thomas Edison began a paved walkway on the grounds of the Burroughs Home to commemorate the lives of his friends.
The Uncommon Friends Foundation recently continued this tradition, establishing the Walk of Friendship. Supporters may purchase paved stones to honor both individuals and organizations, creating an enduring reminder of their significance. The stones will serve as a walkway leading to the Gaile McBride Pavilion, a new meeting space adjacent to the Burroughs Home. Funded by generous donations to the foundation, the pavilion will host various cultural events, character education classes, and additional activities in line with the goals of the Uncommon Friends Foundation.
A grief counseling and support organization based in Washington, DC, the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing trains individuals in effective grief counseling techniques. Here is a quick look at three types of training and education provided by the Wendt Center.
Professional training: With an experienced team of grief counseling professionals, the Wendt Center delivers on-site training for prospective grief counselors. Individuals in the professional training program learn skill-building techniques in play therapy, gain insight into traumatic bereavement, and receive direct feedback from longtime grief counselors.
Internships: Over the years, the Wendt Center has remained dedicated to nurturing the growth of aspiring mental health professionals. The organization frequently trains interns pursuing graduate degrees in various mental health disciplines.
Community education: The Wendt Center frequently provides educational presentations to civic groups, senior centers, religious institutions, and employee assistance programs. Topics covered in community education sessions include children and loss, handling grief during the holidays, and supporting grieving employees.