Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass has come a long way financially in the past year but still needs support especially from caring adults willing to spend about an hour a week with a underprivileged Boyle County child.
The Lexington-based organization operates a satellite office in Danville which is run by Lincoln County native Keisha Coleman. There are currently 26 successful “matches” between Boyle adults and children.
Thirty-five Boyle littles are on a waiting list; Coleman and Lexington-based CEO Eric Ward hope to find adults who can pass extensive background checks and successfully complete the required training. As those children are matched with a “big brother” or “big sister,” Coleman will add more local children to the waiting list.
A common misconception that being a big brother or big sister is time consuming seems to stop some caring people from volunteering, according to Coleman.
However, the expected commitment is an hour or two each week.
“There’s (also) probably a little bit of a misconception about what’s involved in spending time with a little,” Ward said.
“I think sometimes the thought is, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve got to plan these elaborate outings and I’ve got to entertain this child.’”
However, most underprivileged children appreciate the simple commitment of a caring adult’s undivided attention, according to Ward.
Some children have never been inside a fast food restaurant, seen a movie in a theater, or washed a car. The activities do not need to be complex or expensive.
The first-ever Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Summary, released in 2012, states that its mentoring programs have measurable positive outcomes for youth in key areas such as high school graduation, college or career readiness, and avoidance of juvenile delinquency.
It costs the organization about $1,000 a year for each match. The entire Lexington area operation was in danger of closing last January after former office manager Breandrea Wilson was charged with taking more than $435,000 from BBBS accounts; she pleaded guilty to those charges in 2011.
Because the embezzlement had gone undetected for more than a year, the entire organization’s management methods were called into question.
Ward, an experienced fundraiser who served as Georgetown College's athletic director and co-director of the Cincinnati Bengals Preseason Training Camp, heard about the chapter’s plight and asked to take the position so he could try to save the program.
In less than a week’s time, Ward along with retired minor league baseball executive and former big brother Alan Stein garnered $50,000 in donations from business and private citizens.
He reduced the organization’s staff of 30 to 10 and helped raise more than $200,000 in additional funding.
“For much of 2012, we were in crisis mode,” Ward said. “We were trying to save the organization, do the things that we needed to do to keep the doors open.”
Enrollments of new adult volunteers and children seeking a caring mentor were halted for the first seven months of Ward’s tenure so he could reorganize the program.
Ward hired Coleman in August to run the Danville regional office and the entire Bluegrass program started re-enrolling volunteers and children.
Currently, 86 adults and children are successfully matched not only in Danville and Lexington, but also in Richmond and Mount Sterling.
Coleman and Lincoln school officials are in discussions to match some of their students with a big brother or sister.
The Bluegrass organization also plans to carry its programs into Garrard and Mercer counties this year and next year.
SO YOU KNOW
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass, call Keisha Coleman at (859) 231-8181 or visit the organization’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BigBrothersBigSistersoftheBluegrass?ref=ts&fref=ts