More than half of the young people in Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast’s mentoring program are young men, but only 39 percent of the nonprofit organization’s volunteers are male. This disparity has led the organization to start a recruitment drive called 100 Men in 100 Days, through which it hopes to increase the number of male mentors in its programs.
When the drive began, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast had 286 boys in need of a mentor. To help fill the gap, it began highlighting ways in which male mentors could serve. Community-based mentors meet with Littles two times every month for an activity both Big and Little find enjoyable. School-based mentors take one hour a week to meet with their Littles at school. In addition, sports buddies mentor their Littles twice a month, either by watching a sport or by playing one with them.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast also arranges other ways for people to get involved. Those who want to help but can’t volunteer themselves can connect the organization with others via community groups like churches and businesses or through social media. They can also sign up for newsletters and forward them or encourage others to call 1-855-501-BIGS, where people can learn more about volunteering.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast’s Lee County, Florida, office, several ongoing activities allow Bigs and Littles to enjoy outings while developing their relationships. The programs range from bicycling and boating to visiting a science center and state park.
By partnering with Wheel Fun Rentals, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been able to offer its volunteers and their mentees a fun, free activity for eight years. The Wheel Fun location at Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers, Florida, provides Lee County Bigs and Littles access to a year-round beach and marina, where they can enjoy bicycles and pedal-powered watercraft ranging from the mundane to the exotic.
Other activities available to Bigs and Littles in Lee County include the Imaginarium Science Center, also located in Fort Myers. Visitors to the center can touch sea life, engage with an enormous machine via multiple stations, participate in a mock dinosaur dig, and more. Admission to the center costs $12 for adults and $8 for students, but parking is free.
In its October 2014 newsletter, the Uncommon Friends Foundation announced that it would be updating its Character Education Curriculum for 2015. A committee of teachers from Lee County will work with the Lee County School District’s support to rewrite the curriculum, which Uncommon Friends hopes to incorporate into every classroom in southwest Florida. The nonprofit has set a goal of making the new curriculum ready for implementation by January 2015.
Uncommon Friends believes that good character must be taught and that it forms an essential part of the groundwork of a prosperous society. The foundation’s curriculum offers lessons on honesty, friendship, cooperation, and perseverance for students starting in grade three and continuing through high school. The curriculum is currently based on lessons gleaned from a book written by James Newton titled Uncommon Friends. It meets Florida’s educational standards and can be adapted for those of other states, and educators who excel in using it are eligible for Uncommon Friends’ annual Character Education Teacher Award.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, which Angela Melvin serves as community resource director for Lee County, Florida, maintains a number of school- and community-based mentoring programs. The nonprofit begins by matching children between the ages of 6 and 18 with adult volunteers. Most relationships between Bigs, the adult mentors, and Littles, their mentees, begin in the community, but the school-based programs are important as well.
Both sets of programs aim to match children with positive role models, forming relationships that make kids less likely to engage in poor choices like skipping school or using alcohol or illegal drugs. Community programs take a variety of forms, ranging from activities like walking through a park or attending a museum to hanging out and listening to music or talking. Bigs meet their Littles for community programs based upon whatever schedule suits them both, whether that means on weekends or in the evenings.
School-based programs are only a little more structured. With the support of teachers, Bigs meet their Littles either on the playground or in the classroom. The meetings may involve help with homework or school-related activities like reading, but Bigs and Littles also have fun playing basketball and going on playground outings. Regardless of the activity, the goal is the same: help kids develop by providing inspiration and guidance.
A study of the tweeting habits of politicians in Congress was conducted in 2012 by Edelman. Since the introduction of the platform, congressional representatives have taken to the medium with aplomb, though, as the Edelman study revealed, not always with equal success. In its research, Edelman found that Republicans seemed to use the service with much greater effectiveness, earning more retweets than Democrats, and were more than three times as likely to discuss specific legislative actions in their tweets. Senate Republicans were cited as particularly effective users.
While Twitter is ubiquitous in the political and media worlds, the best practices for the platform are still being developed. The Edelman researchers found numerous tweeting habits to be common among the successful congressional users. Naturally, being regularly engaged on the platform, tweeting content-filled messages complete with hashtags consistently through the work week and weekend, leads to superior results. Timing matters as well. Tweets are more successful earlier in the day, but later in the work week. Furthermore, many congressional representatives had more success with tweets that were actually sent out during congressional sessions. The most important part of Twitter success, however, seems to be engaging constantly with other users.
Dedicated to teaching young people and business leaders about ethical conduct, the Uncommon Friends Foundation at the Burroughs Home & Gardens relies on its extensive network of volunteers. Here is a quick look at three Uncommon Friends Foundation committees with volunteer opportunities.
Finance Committee: Responsible for creating the UFF annual budget, the Finance Committee meets monthly and presents its budgets for approval by the board of directors. The committee also oversees fund-raising activity and develops ways to increase the organization’s endowment fund.
Education Committee: Tasked with maintaining the educational curriculum of the foundation, the Education Committee organizes teacher training workshops and seminars, discusses trends in character education, and selects recipients for the Annual Character Education Awards.
Marketing/PR & Membership Committee: The Marketing/PR & Membership Committee communicates with current members and recruits new members. In addition to publishing the Hello Friends newsletter, the committee handles all media relations and public outreach efforts.
The Walk of Friendship at the Burroughs Home in Florida allows donors to honor or memorialize individuals, organizations, and companies with paved stones customized with a message. These stones will serve as the walkway into the future pavilion directly next to the Burroughs Home. Funded by the McBride family, the pavilion will serve as a space for events, meetings, classes, and cultural events.
The idea for the Walk of Friendship originated with Thomas Edison, who created similar walkways in Fort Myers Beach in the 1920s in honor of Henry Ford and Jim Newton. Individuals can follow in Edison’s footsteps by purchasing stones for the walkway to honor people or entities that have contributed to the community over the years. All proceeds from the sale of the stones will go to support character education coursework that will take place at the new pavilion.