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A "Big" Can Do A "Little" Good-BBBS
A "Big" Can Do A "Little" Good
The Journey To Change Starts With You!
By Gary S. Hatrick
For many, the experience of COVID-19 brought an aloneness that they had never experienced. The desire for human contact and sometimes just for someone to whom to talk – knowing that there is someone there.
Sadly, there are children who live much the same way, even when there is no pandemic. They may not know why, but they need a friend, and someone they can look up to, someone who cares. Someone who perhaps, is you.
If such a thought tugs at your heart, you need to contact Jennifer Kilburg of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.
Jennifer is the Partnerships Director with the local Big Brother/Big Sister organization. Her task is to find supporters for BB/BS. That can mean finding people who will contribute financially, but a large part of her job is finding “Bigs.”
Bigs are paired with “Littles” in the Big Brother/Big Sister Program and while that may sound like something out of a fantasy movie, it is a real life thing not a fantasy and for some a dream come true.
Littles come in all ages from kindergarten through to high school. They come from a number of types of backgrounds.
“It's not always what people call “downtrodden kids,” Jennifer explains. “It could be a kid in a big family and they don't get that one-on-one nurturing from the parents, so the parents say 'hey, I don't have a lot of time.' It could be a referral from a school counselor that sees the child needs a little bit of attention or guidance or mentorship. Maybe it’s a child of a single mom who doesn't have a lot of time and just wants to get a male figure in the picture.”
The Littles are as diverse as the rest of the human race. “We have kids who like to play sports, kids who like to play music, kids that like to read or fish,” Jennifer continues, “It's a big spectrum of Littles we have on the waiting list.”
What is needed are “Bigs” – Big Brothers and Big Sisters, although right now BB/BS has a campaign for 100 men in 100 days. There is a great need for men willing to be matched with a Little.
There are two main programs for Bigs. One is Community and the other is Site-Based. The Community
program requires spending at least 8 hours a month with the Little, taking the Little on outings. It also requires a minimum 15-month commitment. Site-Based is for people who are limited on their time. It requires four hours per month for at least a year. The site is usually at school during the Little's lunchtime.
To become a Big you must first attend an orientation which you can do online. It is about an hour-and-a-half and will explain the mission of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the various opportunities, requirements and responsibilities. Once you decide to get involved you can fill out an application. Being a Big requires a background check, references and fingerprinting as well as a thorough interview to find out what are you looking for and what interests you have.
Today the issue of gender fluidity is often in the forefront of society. In the past one rule of making matches was male to male and female to female. At BB/BS the issue is left up to the Little's parents before a match is set. “We always defer to the parents when it comes to the Littles,” Jennifer said. “If they don't feel encouraged about the match, it's less likely to succeed.”
Before you ever meet a Little there are several specialists who will work with you to determine which Little might be a match to you. Even when you have met your match, there are match support specialists available to give you ideas and find resources whenever you need.
“We want our matches to stay together,” Jennifer said, “and we want it to be a great experience for everyone not just for the Littles. Never are you left alone.”
There are variations within the program that may better fit your situation.
For those who are still hesitant to be a lone Big, BB/BS also provides opportunities for couples to work together. “We do have a big couple opportunity,” Jennifer said. “It could be a girlfriend and a boyfriend or a wife and a husband, a husband and a husband or a wife and a wife. These couples can mentor a child together.”
Sports Buddies is a part of the Community Program where BB/BS will match a Big and a Little who share a love of playing and watching sports. The organization has great partnerships with our local teams and can often offer free tickets to Sports Buddies.
The School-to-Work program, as explained on the website, “is a three-way partnership between the local school districts, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and our corporate and community partners to provide one-to-one mentoring in the workplace for high school juniors and seniors to help improve graduation rates. The students (Littles) visit the workplace of the employees (Bigs) one morning each month during the school year for about three hours. They spend an hour learning post-graduation skills, then spend one-to-one time with their Bigs through lunch before returning to school.”
“The experience of being Big is life-changing,” Jennifer said. “I have spoken to people who have said 'I went there looking to do something good for the community and these kids, and I can't believe how much I was changed.’ ”
Still, she stresses, it is a serious commitment.
“It is not a one-and-done volunteer opportunity,” Jennifer said “We are impacting lives and changing the trajectory of these kids’ future. So it's not something you can just come on a weekend and do. The children need to know that somebody is there on their side, that they have someone they can count on. That’s the biggest thing for us, consistency and stability – it’s what these kids are missing in their lives. We really need to get together with our community help these kids gain the tools to become productive members of society. I'm asking for something far more valuable than your money. I’m asking for your time. You invest with us because we are invested in the community and our kids and it's worth every minute.”
To learn more about the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program visit the website at bbbstampabay.org. There are Zoom orientation opportunities listed on the website or e-mail Jennifer at
4630 WOODLAND CORPORATE BLVD.
SUITE 160, TAMPA, FL 33614
Partnerships Director, Pasco County
C: 813.997.6881 BBBSTampaBay.org