Archive for Thursday, May 1, 2008

Big Brothers, Sisters needs volunteers

May 1, 2008

Big Brothers and Big Sisters has brought children together with older mentors for more than a century, across the country and even right here in Baldwin City.

For Dan Harris, a Baldwin City resident who serves on the board of directors for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, working with the organization has been a way to give back to the community by helping its littlest members.

"I have always had a weak spot for kids," Harris said. "I think it's important to give the opportunity for children to grow and have positive role models in their lives."

Although he hasn't served as a big brother himself, Harris's sister volunteers in the program, which has given him the opportunity to see the positive effect that having an older mentor can have on a child.

"You see such great progress in children in their development and it makes you want to work with them more and more and more," Harris said. "You really see a major impact that Bigs have on changes in behavior and changes in attitudes."

Harris also said that support for the effectiveness of the organization is easily shown.

"There are so many statistics that show kids in the program are less likely to drink and do drugs, are less violent, and have better school attendance," he said. "That's why it's so important for people to get involved."

According to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Web site, children involved in the program are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol and are 52 percent less likely to skip school. In addition, they are more confident in their schoolwork and get along better with their family members at home.

The organization works by pairing children with a same-sex adult mentor. Volunteers usually work with their child at least once a week, taking them on a variety of activities. The majority of children involved in the program are between the ages of 10 to 12, although there is no limit to how old they must be to enter into the program.

The organization is currently low on members, with many children waiting to be matched up with adults. Although there are children of both sexes waiting to be matched with an adult, the absences are especially strong in boys.

Harris said the current amount of waiting children has been caused by an increased number of children being enrolled in the program, while the number of volunteers enrolled has only increased slightly. To fill these positions, the organization has been attempting to find new recruits, especially males.

"We need new men to step up and be Big Brothers," Harris said.

Harris also said that parents had no need to worry about the safety of enrolling their children in the program. Volunteers must complete a rigorous screening process before being allowed to participate in the program.

"It's a very detailed process we use to ensure the safety of the child," he said.

In addition to Harris, the organization has also won support from members of Baldwin City's business community.

The Baldwin State Bank has been worked with the organization for years, recently participating in a bowling fundraiser.

"We thought it was a good cause," said Tom Dillon, the bank's new president. "It seemed like a good organization and we wanted to see it continue here in Baldwin."

Dillon said working with young people was one of the reason's they chose to work with the organization.

"Youth is the future of Baldwin City and Douglas County and anything we can do to help out will be advantageous to everyone involved." Dillon said.

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