WEST HARTFORD — While some challenges have lessened since the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Connecticut, the waiting list for children seeking to be paired with adult mentors at Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters has grown since March, according to an email from the organization. The 54-year-old organization is gearing up to remedy the situation.
“We are launching a new mentor recruitment initiative, 50 For Fall, aimed at taking great kids off our waiting list,” said Andy Fleischmann, president & CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Our goal is to bring in 50 new Big Brothers by the start of fall on September 21. Generally, when we put out a call for volunteers we tend to get more women than men responding. Given that the majority of kids on our current waiting list are boys, we are looking for men to volunteer right now, especially men of color.”
There are no educational requirements for Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring — new volunteers receive training before being matched with a child. Mentors need to be 21-years-old and ready to commit to regular communication with — and (when state and social distancing guidelines permit) get-togethers with a child in need. Multiple studies over the past 25 years have shown that mentoring relationships between a caring adult and a young person that last for one year or more have a positive impact on the child for a lifetime.
“Mentoring is fun,” said Ryan Matthews, director of programs at Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Special qualifications aren’t necessary. You just have to like children and be interested in helping them embrace and develop their innate abilities. Being a mentor doesn’t take a whole lot of time away from your other responsibilities, It’s just a few hours a month that you consistently spend with your Little Brother or Little Sister. And we have an excellent 24/7 support system available to mentors — should they have a match question or challenge they’re not able to cope with on their own.”
Those interested in exploring the possibility of becoming a mentor — or supporting the mission of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters with a donation — should visit the organization’s website: www.nbbbs.org. You could also call 860-525-5437, ext. 117, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“With so many people understandably focused on racial inequities and divides right now, Fleischmann says, “becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister is a good way to help bring our community together. For many of our kids, just knowing there’s a person they can turn to who cares makes a huge difference. A person who’s not judgmental, who’s willing to listen and give support can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.”
Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters is an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the longest established mentoring organization in the world — founded in 1904. It helps children from single-parent and no-parent homes avoid negative behaviors and reach their highest potential. Nutmeg does this by creating and maintaining one-on-one relationships between children in need and professionally screened, inspirational adult volunteers. Based in Hartford, Nutmeg was founded in 1966. Last year, it served over 1,300 children in 132 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.