BRATTLEBORO -- Austin Powers, 11, knows he scored when Keith Clark decided to get involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program two-and-a-half years ago and Clark became his "big."

Since then Clark has taken Powers to New York City for his first time.

The two have taken a motorcycle trip to Hampton Beach and traveled to Boston for a Celtics game at the TD Garden.

"I give it 500 thumbs up," Powers answered when he was asked how he would rate the experience. "Kids can learn a lot from their big brother."

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County, a program of Youth Services, held its annual New Years resolution party Saturday at World Learning in Brattleboro.

The event is a way to kick off the new year and look back over the past year, and have some of the "bigs" and "littles" enrolled in the program get together with each other.

Clark, who is the Windham County Sheriff, said he got involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program after listening to a presentation at Rotary.

Clark, who is as busy as anyone, says it has actually not been hard to find the time to spend with Austin.

"Some of the best things we do are the things I need to do anyway," he said, while taking a break from a competitive game of cards he and Austin were engaged in. "It's really been rewarding. I get as much out of it as he does."

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County has between 125 to 200 mentors enrolled in the program. Mentors work with boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 15 and have to agree to spending at least four hours each month with their "little."

Youth Services tries to hold an event like the one at World Learning once a month to bring together the "bigs" and "littles" enrolled in the program, said Kristy Smith, program director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County.

"We do it mostly to give our 'bigs' and 'littles' a chance to have fun together," Smith said.

Allison Paquette, a "big" with her "little," Gabby Blouin.(Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
Allison Paquette, a "big" with her "little," Gabby Blouin. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
"But it also gives the mentors a chance to talk with other mentors and talk with staff about anything that might come up. We want to remind them that they are not in this alone."

January is National Mentoring Month and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County is making a special effort to spread the word about the program and recruit new mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County has about 30 children on its waiting list.

Typically it is harder to find male mentors for young boys and Smith says the group is trying to reach out to the community to help find new men and women for the program.

Frank Palmer and Deb Briggs were at the event Saturday.

They are in the process of adopting their granddaughter, and they came to the party Saturday to make some connections and get her enrolled in the program.

"We think it would be a good way for her to expand her circle," Briggs said. "It's nice to see how other 'bigs' and 'littles' interact. We would like her to be involved in that and meet other kids."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman@reformer.com.