BRATTLEBORO >> Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County is making a special effort to recruit new volunteers during January's National Mentoring Month, to match the close to 60 children on the waiting list at Youth Services.
Both male and female volunteers are needed but disproportionately it is boys that have to wait the longest to find a Big," said Kimberley Diemond, Youth Services Director of Mentoring. "Less men volunteer their time and close to 75 percent of all of our mentees or 'littles,' as they are know, come from single parent households. We have some fantastic male mentors but we need more of them."
According to Diemond the other parent is often not part of the picture in these children's lives, some due to incarceration, others from death, separation or irrevocable differences with the custodial parent.
"We have a number of single parents who are homebound due to health issues and having another adult who can attend their children's sports games or do physically active activities with them has been a lifesaver on many levels."
National research demonstrates that mentoring — pairing a caring adult volunteer with a young person for a mutually rewarding friendship — is an effective method of addressing all sorts of youth-related issues, from combating drug and alcohol use and violence to getting along better with their families and peers. Youth mentored by the program are 46 percent less likely to use drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol than their non-mentored peers.
The children on the wait list for a mentor are boys or girls between the ages of 5 and 15. Big Brothers Big Sisters offers two flexible options for volunteers who want to mentor a child. The school-based program offers volunteers the opportunity to visit with a child during lunch or recess at least once a week, in either Marlboro, Bellows Falls or Brattleboro. This option is for people who prefer the structure of meeting on their lunch hour at the child's school. The community-based program, in contrast, allows volunteers to meet with a child during their own time and play sports, take a walk or just hang out for at least four hours a month.
Even though January is National Mentoring Month, bigs are needed all year round. For information on volunteering, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at 802-257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org/bbbs.
This mentoring program is one of eight other Youth Services programs serving the community's youth and families including Therapeutic Case Management, Substance Abuse Prevention, Family Services, Youth Outreach, Family Emergency Response/Runaway Program, Restorative Justice, and Juvenile and Adult Court Diversion.