Countywide & Sun - Pottawatomie County's ONLY locally owned Newspaper. Connecting you to the community where you live, work & play!

Big Brothers Big Sisters Seeks Volunteers To Mentor Littles

 

December 24, 2020

By MARY BELLE ZOOK

BBBS of Oklahoma - Shawnee

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma - Shawnee is seeking individuals to make long-lasting, positive impacts within youth across Shawnee. As a one-on-one mentorship program, BBBS makes meaningful matches between adult volunteers (Bigs) and children (Littles) ages 6 through 18.

"We have noticed through our surveys that when Littles are matched, it dramatically changes their lives for the better. They say they're happier, grades are improved and their self-esteem is better overall," said BBBS of Shawnee Area Director Nikki Rieves.

With three different volunteer options, there is something for everyone to get involved, including community-based, school-based and school-based plus. Couples can also serve together through the community-based program.

"The community-based program includes taking out your Little into the community two to four times a month, and it can last anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on what activity you chose to do," Rieves said. "For our school-based program, usually that's visiting the Little once a week for about 30 to 45 minutes in school, but because of COVID-19, school- based changed to more of a school-based plus."

While the pandemic has caused most schools to close access to visitors or go completely virtual, school-based plus allows Bigs and Littles to maintain contact. Many opt to utilize tools like video calls, play video games, enjoy time outside together and more.

"Then when the schools do open and they allow us to have volunteers, they can start seeing the Littles at school, so it's the best of both worlds," Rieves said.

Married couples, or those in long-term, stable relationships, can become Big Couples to a Little Brother, and every volunteer goes through an application process that includes interviews, background checks and more.

"You have to do a minimum two-hour interview with myself, and the interviews goes over your history from basically the time you were born until now to dig deep into your motivation of wanting to be a Big," Rieves said. "The safety of those in our program is of utmost importance, and it also helps us creative meaningful matches."

Big Sister Hope learned about BBBS while attending service at Life.Church Shawnee. Within a few weeks after completing paperwork and an interview with Rieves, she was notified about a Little sister named London.

"We both came to her office, and Nikki introduced us," she explained. "And we both very quickly decided that we thought we would be a great match together."

Since meeting, London and Hope have gotten to know each other by spending time at the mall, grabbing breakfast or lunch at local restaurants, and more.

"I enjoy having this relationship with her. As her Big sister, we're friends - we get to have that friendship, and it's really rewarding," Hope said.

Staff are also on hand to help Bigs and Littles succeed with one-on-one match support and regular check ins with volunteers, participants and guardians.

"The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma - Shawnee staff is very supportive of Bigs, so I think that's really encouraging. As a Big, you don't feel like you're going in (it) alone and like you just get released and have to figure it out. Staff is really supportive," Hope said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus pandemic has been especially difficult for children and youth, and experiencing trauma during these key ages of development may have long-term consequences. Serving as a Big can mitigate the mental, emotional and social challenges that impact children in normal circumstances as well as while experiencing a global pandemic.

"Being a Big right now is more important than ever because most of our Littles, not all, but most are from households where there is not a lot of stability, and the Littles have a variety of stressors in their lives that have become so much larger in the grand scope of things when they're home all the time and doing virtual school. ... They need someone to step in and do a temperature check, just saying 'Hey, how are you? I'm thinking about you.' That's goes a long way for their mental health," Rieves said.

City of Shawnee police officer Freeland and his Little Hunter were matched in April 2016, and he finds his time as a community Big rewarding.

"It's been a really great experience. ... We've just built a really good bond," Freeland said.

"I think my favorite part is being able when we do get the chance to get together, just talking to Hunter and getting to know him and all of his life decisions and his opinion on what his career choices are going to be."

They often go out to eat or spend time outdoors, like hunting, to pass the time. And although officer Freeland has a busy career and family, he said balancing his time as a Big is easy. For those who may have hesitations about volunteering, Freeland said his experience has been extremely positive.

"These kids need that male or female role model in their lives, so I think it's very important and (potential Bigs) should just take that leap," he said.

BBBS offers weekly virtual opportunities to learn more about becoming a volunteer. For more information, visit bbbsok.com or stop by Shawnee's new location at 2510 E Independence, Suite 200.

 

Reader Comments(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2020

Rendered 01/10/2021 22:57