Portland girl among 100 Big Brothers Big Sisters mentees getting free phones

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters “little” sister, 10-year-old Stormey Ford of Portland, receives her free smartphone. These devices, which come with two months of free AT&T service, allow low-income children to remain connected with their mentors during the pandemic.

HARTFORD — Ten-year-old Stormey Ford of Portland was among 100 Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters child participants who received free smartphones from AT&T to help them move to a virtual mentoring model implemented during the pandemic.

Stormey wore a protective mask during the pickup, as well as a tiara and sash for her birthday. She was very excited to receive the phone, according to Brian Kelly, director of marketing for Nutmeg BBBS.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the mentoring agency implemented an virtual mentoring model to ensure that at-risk children could stay connected to their mentors, known as “bigs,” according to a press release.

Using a virtual mentoring tool kit, children and their “bigs” undertake joint activities and virtual tours, explore science, math and reading, play games and stay in close touch, the release added.

With these new devices, which come with two months of free AT&T service, low-income children will be able to remain connected with their “bigs,” as well as use them for distance learning during the remainder of the school year and beyond, according to the agency.

“For many of them, a smartphone is their only way of really connecting with their mentors,” Andy Fleischmann, president and CEO of Nutmeg BBBS, said in a prepared statement. “In this period of uncertainty and disconnection, keeping the vulnerable kids in our program in contact with their Big Brothers and Sisters — as well as other nurturing people in their lives — is tremendously important,” he added.

“It will help reduce their stress and anxiety, and, ensure that each week, they can connect with inspiring mentors who help keep them on a healthy path,” according to Fleischmann.

John Emra is president of AT&T Connecticut.

“Their dedicated volunteers and staff members are working hard to make sure mentoring continues, especially for vulnerable children who otherwise may have fallen through the cracks during the COVID-19 crisis. We hope these phones will enable children and mentors to remain connected an on track during this critical time,” he said in the statement.

This donation is part of a larger effort by AT&T to support student mentoring and distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to local efforts, the company has supported numerous distance learning initiatives through its Distance Learning & Family Connections Fund.

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters is an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the longest established youth mentoring organization in the world, which was founded in 1904. Based in Hartford, Nutmeg serves 132 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

For information, visit nbbbs.org.

Connecticut Media Group