HUNTINGTON — To celebrate January as National Mentoring Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State plans to expand to Mason, Putnam and Kanawha counties.
The program, designed to provide one-on-one relationships with community volunteers, currently serves Cabell and Wayne counties in West Virginia; Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties in Kentucky; and Lawrence County in Ohio.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State was incorporated in Cabell County in 1974 as the community was concerned with the plight of children living in at-risk home environments. Stephanie Collier, executive director, said a majority of the children who are in the program live in homes with their grandparents or other family members.
“We felt like the area was ready for us. We are ready for the growth. We are ready for the expansion. Our team is equipped and we are excited to offer our services,” Collier said.
Collier said in the past few years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State has received calls about children in Southern West Virginia eager to participate and adults in the area who want to volunteer.
The second Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in Southern West Virginia closed in 2018, leaving Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State as the only agency in West Virginia.
The central office is in Huntington and a satellite office is in Ashland, Kentucky. Collier suspects a satellite office will be available in Charleston as part of the organization’s five-year expansion plan.
With COVID-19 limitations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State served 106 children in 2021 compared to the 120 to 170 kids it had annually served in recent years before the pandemic.
The agency plans to promote the expansion for the next six months and organize a summer 2022 launch event with activities to begin enrollment. Both mentors and mentees can apply now for all county positions.
Collier said the program is in need of adults, especially male volunteers.
“People feel they might not have the time to mentor. Sometimes I hear them say, ‘I’m flawed, so I don’t want to pass my flaws onto a mentee,’ but we want real people,” she said. “What we are really seeking are mentors who want to add littles in their life. We are not asking them to be event coordinators or to put on these elaborate outings.”
When there is a mentee applicant, there is a home-based or school-based interview to meet the child and find out his or her goals.
When interviewing a 7-year-old boy, he said his goal in the program was to go to Frostop Drive-In and eat cheese fries. Collier said the story stuck with her because it shows the program’s simplicity.
“Our littles are looking for consistency and reliability — even if it is including a kiddo to do your errands with you every Saturday or if you go fishing on the weekend and you are willing to have a kid tag along with you,” she said.
For more information regarding Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State, visit www.bbbstristate.org/.