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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Tri-Cities celebrates 30 years

Marsha Salley • Dec 28, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Childhood can be tough and for kids who come from single parent homes or live in poverty the challenges are even greater. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Greater Tri-Cities is a mentoring organization that assists such families in five counties in our region. Katie Carrico, Tri-Cities Regional Director, says 2015 marks the 30th year the agency has been providing caring adult mentors for some of the area’s neediest children.

The dictionary synonyms for mentor include guide, tutor, supporter, guru, or teacher. For Big Brothers and Big Sisters’ purposes, the emphasis is on relationships between a Big (volunteer) and their Little (child receiving services). The relationship for one match might center primarily on educational needs - reading to the child and helping with homework - while another Big takes their Little to the park, plays games or goes for ice cream. Katie says there are no hard and fast rules about what the mentoring consists of, as long as it is safe, beneficial to the child and enjoyable. Big Brothers and Big Sisters volunteers range from 16 years old to seniors. They donate a minimum of 4 hours a month, during a calendar year, spent in outings or just hanging out with their Little.

Longevity is one of the goals for mentoring, such as the relationship between Q and Big Brother Mo. Q entered the BBBS program at age 13, asking for a Big to “play sports with me.” Mo and Q were matched and bonded over a love of athletics. They went to games and Big Brother Mo encouraged Q to go out for football. Five years later, Q is about to graduate high school with three college athletic scholarships to choose from.

Stories such as these are responsible for the tremendous popularity of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. With a focus on instilling respect in relationships and equipping kids with the tools to make healthy decisions and achieve educational success, it’s no wonder children and their families are eager to participate. And the statistics are impressive on the program. The first ever nationwide study on a mentoring program found that kids in Big Brothers Big Sisters were 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol. They also were more confident in their schoolwork and got along better with their families.

Emphasizing the incredible benefit to the community is how Carrico conducts the fundraising aspect of her position.

“As a non-profit, we are funded partially by grants and special events, but the bulk of our income is from corporate and individual asks,” Katie says. Right now, through Dec. 31, Integrity Capital is offering to match all donations up to $500 and, Katie says, with only a few days left in the year, they are $1,000 short of their immediate goal.

“Beyond that, we are looking to build a foundation of donations - ideally about $30,000 would comprise a reserve.

“At Big Brothers Big Sister we impact lives - one kid at a time,” Katie says, adding that “stronger individuals strengthen communities.” And nothing could be more welcome in our current environment than good citizens and strong communities.

For information on how to donate to help BBBS exceed their goal, go to www.tennesseebig.org. Donations can be made online, by mail or in person. From now through Dec. 31, you can double your donation by donating online at www.TennesseeBig.org/30BigYearsTC or by calling the agency at 423-247-3240.