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.
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.
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.
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.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in Lee County (BBBS), volunteer mentors have a chance to make a significant positive impact on the lives of at-risk children and teenagers. More than 70 percent of all children waiting for a Big Brother are boys, but only 30 percent of volunteer inquiries come from men. Consequently, BBBS frequently encourages men of all ages to consider taking on a Little.
For just a few hours of volunteer work per month, a Big Brother can be a trusted friend and role model. Parents in the area often seek the support of BBBS mentors who can help their sons make healthy life choices and learn how to succeed in the classroom. Although BBBS welcomes all Big Brothers to its ranks, it has expressed a particular need for men of color to mentor Hispanic and African-American boys, which represent the majority of children served.