ST. CLOUD – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota’s Be Big in 22 campaign aims to recruit volunteer mentors to partner with youth on their waitlist.
According to the press release, the organization solicits referrals from mentors and volunteers, partners with Starbucks at recruitment events, and participates in community events and outreach. Though the campaign runs through March 31, the organization is also conducting recruitment efforts throughout the year.
The organization especially needs Big Brothers. 66% of youth on the waitlist for Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations across the country are boys, while only 36% of mentors are men, according to the organization.
“A lot of guys, we found, don’t think they have what it takes to be a big or don’t think they’d be good at it. But a lot of our guys tend to be some of the best mentors, people who’ve overcome life’s challenges, people who’ve been through things to share with and help their little ones,” said Community Engagement Manager Tina Johanning.
And more than 100 kids are currently waiting for a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.
What it’s like to be tall
Big duo Alex and Brittney Schoephoerster’s Little waited over a year before he was paired with the couple. In the roughly four years since this pairing, the trio have spent a great deal of time go-karting, ax throwing, celebrating birthdays and getting their little one involved as the Schoephoersters family has grown.
The couple relocated to St. Cloud from the Twin Cities and were interested in finding ways to get involved in the community.
“I’ve had strong mentors throughout my life and that continues to this day and it’s been very impactful and I’ve been very fortunate in that regard,” said Alex, who serves as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota. “When we’re looking for ways to give back, we’re trying to figure out how to make the biggest impact, right? And somehow give the greatest amount of help that we can.”
The couple are part of the organization’s community-based mentoring program, which offers flexibility in the activities they undertake together with their little one. The organization also sends out regular emails about upcoming events and activities, and the trio can regularly reach out to their coordinator for support, Brittney said.
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“It’s not often that we try to think of things we can do. There are so many activities. It tries to narrow [them] down,” Brittney said.
The couple have also seen their little one growing up next to them. The Schoephoersters have had two children since mating with their Little.
“And so he was there from the start. He has attended family birthdays and various family events like this and gets on great with our boys. It was great to see how we all kind of grew together,” said Brittney.
How to become a big one
The organization’s community-based program calls for large and small pairings to meet two to four times a month for an hour each for a year, with big-little get-togethers scheduled, Johanning said. Volunteers are asked to commit for a year to provide more consistency for their little ones.
For volunteers with less availability, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota also offer Bigs on Campus, where mentors meet twice a month with their Littles at St. Cloud State University. With the Sports Buddies program, volunteers commit to a minimum of six months, meet once or twice a month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters staff plan sports-related activities.
For those considering getting involved, Big Brothers Big Sisters offers informational sessions, and people can reach out to staff with questions, Johanning said.
“It really just comes down to people actually going through the process to learn more about it. And then you jump in and actually do it,” Alex said.
For the Schoephoersters, spending time with their little one is a way to have fun and just focus on spending time with them.
“And now he’s going to talk about how glad he is to have both of us and he feels like there are things he can talk to Alex about and then there are things he can talk to me about can, and he just gets other perspectives on it,” Brittney said.
For more information, see Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota website or reach the organization at 320-253-1616.