The organization offers several programs: the Buddy Program (school-based mentoring) and Big Brothers Big Sisters (community based mentoring). Volunteers and youth enrolled in both mentoring programs are screened and matched in one-to-one relationships based on interest and suitability.
There are many local youth on the waiting list, particularly in the school-based programs. BBBS has active programs at Belwood, Sonoraville, Swain, and Tolbert Elementary Schools as well as Sonoraville Middle School. Fairmount Elementary School anxiously awaits volunteers for the 16 students currently on the waiting list. Sonoraville Middle School needs male volunteers to serve as role models for the 20 boys on their waiting list. Sonoraville Middle School Counselor Priscilla Coon said, “The Big Buddy program has been invaluable to our students at Sonoraville Middle School. The girls look forward to their Big Buddies’ visits all week long. They receive much needed one-on-one attention and learn valuable skills not always taught in the classroom or at home. We appreciate our High School Big Sister volunteers, and our doors are always open to new volunteers!"
Almost everyone has had someone in their lives, other than a parent, who made a difference to them. It’s showing you care. It’s having fun. It’s listening to your Little Brother or Little Sister talk about whatever is going on in their life. It’s a series of small, teachable moments that in the end instill a sense of wonder, warmth, and magic into their lives.
Most volunteers start out thinking they will give something back, yet most end up realizing that they get back so much more than they give. BBBS Board Member and Big Brother Steve Vedrody said, "I’ve gotten back more enjoyment from mentoring my 'Little' than I had imagined. It's great to see a young person grow and develop under your guidance."
Calls come in every day from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors. They know what a difference a mentor can make in a child’s life. You can help Start Something BIG for children in Gordon County by helping to recruit new volunteers. Mana Smith, Academic Intervention Specialist at Calhoun Primary School and member of the BBBS Advisory Board in Calhoun, added, “I have lived in Calhoun for most of my life, and you won’t find a more supportive community for children. We have numerous volunteers in our schools, large crowds at sporting events, and local businesses who donate resources to help where there are needs. The Big Brother’s Big Sister’s Program is another way people in this community can get involved and help. We have so many children in Calhoun today that need a good role model in their lives and someone to show them that they care. These children could truly be blessed from a “Big Brother or Big Sister,” but we need to get the word out about the program!”
Through the “community based” program, "matches" meet for a few hours weekly/biweekly participating in recreational, cultural and educational activities. BBBS provides professional support and sponsors free monthly activities for matches. Volunteers don't have to empty their wallets to find fun activities. The community partners often generously donate tickets to sporting and cultural events around town.
“School-based” mentoring is a manageable 45-minute to 1-hour weekly/biweekly visit with a child in the school that has proven to be a great self-esteem builder for many at-risk children. Improvements are seen in behavior, attendance, and academics. The children are identified by school teachers and counselors as students who could benefit from a positive relationship with a role model.
Last fall, BBBS launched the Reading Buddies program in area schools. Executive Director Staci Halyak stated, “The Reading Buddies program functions much like the traditional Buddy Program with the mentor visiting the school once weekly or biweekly, but the match is more focused on the child’s reading skills. The match spends the majority of their time reading books, playing phonics games, and writing stories. We are very much in need of volunteers for our programs!”
Founded in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States. BBBS mentors children ages 5-18. Our mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, through a professionally-supported one-to-one relationship with a caring adult, and to assist them in achieving their highest potential as they grow to become confident, competent and caring individuals. National research has shown that positive relationships between youth and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentors have a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives.
If you or someone you know is interesting in learning more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, please call 706-218-6572. Throughout the year, Big Brothers Big Sisters board members and staff are available to speak corporate, civic, and community groups about our programs and how to support the mentoring movement. If you are interested in hosting a program, please email Gordon@bbsnga.org.