Photo Gallery | Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Windham County
BRATTLEBORO — For one hour every week, Caleb Linn, Steve Shortbridge, and Adam Sidelinger leave their jobs at PCL Civil Constructors Inc., the construction firm that is building the Interstate 91 bridge that spans the West River, and they head out to local elementary schools. Waiting for them, eager to play, are their "Littles." Caleb, Steve, and Adam are Big Brothers in the Windham County Big Brother Big Sister program.
Two and a half years ago Caleb, the project manager at PCL, was looking for ways to get his team involved in the community. He asked Youth Services if they had anything that could work. After a presentation to his staff, Caleb, who was a Big Brother in high school, Steve, and Adam decided to become Big Brothers.
The three men meet with their mentees once a week at local schools. They play sports, talk, draw, make paper airplanes, run around on the playground, and eat lunch together. Not only do the volunteers get to take a break from the day-to-day stresses of work but they also get to have a positive impact on the children's days.
Volunteers are matched with children based on shared interests. The children are between the ages of 6 and 15 years old and are living under difficult circumstances. Close to eighty children from Windham County and neighboring New Hampshire towns are matched each year with a Big, but there are about 60 kids still waiting to be matched, 75 percent of which are boys.
"Less men volunteer their time and close to three-fourths of all of our mentees or 'Littles,' as they are known, come from single-parent households," explained Kimberley Diemond, Youth Services Director of Mentoring, which includes Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County. "We have some fantastic male mentors but we need more of them!"
There are three different ways of being a volunteer. The site-based Big Brothers and Big Sisters meet once a week, at the school of their Little during lunch or after school, throughout the school year. They are encouraged to stay in touch during the summer break via emails and letters.
The second way of being a volunteer is to be a Career Based Big Brother or Big Sister. This is an opportunity for high school students to learn from professionals in a real working environment. Children are paired with local business mentors and meet two to four hours a month in a field they may be interested in joining after graduation.
The third style of volunteering is to be a Community Based Big Brother or Big Sister. The volunteer gets to choose when, where, and how they connect with their mentees. They meet for a minimum of four hours per month and can do a variety of activities from going to a movie to touring museums to hiking or simply hanging out.
"People see this program, and, I think, they assume it is some huge commitment," Caleb said. "But, it's an hour, once a week. The return on the investment is far greater than the worries that someone would have about the time they would put into it."
Regardless of the type of Big Brother or Big Sister, they all have one thing in common – they help enrich the lives of children.
"It is great to have the opportunity to have an impact on a child's life, possibly steer them in the right direction, or change them for the better," explained Adam. "You are their outlet for one hour a week."
This Saturday, May 7, over 300 participants from various walks of life will come together at the Brattleboro Bowl. They will lace up their shoes and grab a bowling ball and hit the lanes to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County. The 35th annual Bowl For Kids' Sake will kick off at 9 a.m. after weeks of pledge gathering, with the hope to raise a majority of the program's operating budget. Anyone interested in joining the fundraiser or becoming a volunteer should contact Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org/mentoring