1. Tell us about your role and position at your agency.
I am a case manager at BBBS of Hampshire County. At our small agency, case managers do everything from screening and interviewing Bigs and Littles to making the match and providing support throughout their friendship. I applied for our agency to participate in the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge Campaign because I saw the potential for great recruitment and visibility in our community. Those are two things we need very much.
2. Is there a story of a particular match that you are proud of?
We are proud of all our matches! Of course, sometimes there is a special match that really warms the heart. For me, that match is Alan and Derrick [names changed for anonymity]. Alan and Derrick have been matched nearly 2 years and embody the true mutual friendship that we hope to see in all of our matches. Alan coaches for one of the local college football teams and Derrick is going into 4th grade next year and plays several sports. They spend a lot of time outdoors playing sports, hiking, fishing, and checking out community events like the farmer’s market. They also enjoy hanging out on the campus where Alan works. Derrick’s family recently moved out of the county to a neighboring city. He was afraid he would lose his Big Brother because of the distance, but Alan promised to make it work. Now the two see each other every other week for a longer time to make the commute easier. They are exploring Derrick’s new community together so that he feels more at home.
3. What is your program doing to celebrate this year’s Red Sox Mentoring Challenge?
This was our first year participating in the RSMC Campaign. We learned a lot from meeting with the other mentoring organizations in Western Mass who had done it in previous years. In June, we held a recruitment event at a local sports bar that had just opened. We hoped the new venue and showing the Red Sox game on TV would draw a good crowd of our toughest demographics to recruit—community members, and particularly men. We had a great turnout and lots of fun! One of our long-time Big Brothers talked about the joys and challenges of his match with his Little Brother, and how he had been on the unsure about mentoring before he applied. We made contact with several interested people who would like more information about our program. We call that a success!
4. What would you say to those who are on the fence about mentoring?
Many of the Bigs we match tell us that they were initially on the fence about mentoring before they asked for more information. We always tell them it’s great that they think carefully about making such a big commitment, and that we’re so glad they wanted to learn more! Getting more information is the first step to being able to make an informed decision about whether being a mentor is a good fit for your lifestyle. For us, that means coming to an information session or showing up at a recruitment event to hear from staff and current Bigs what it’s really about. They are no-pressure meet-and-greets to acquaint potential volunteers with our program and mission, and what it takes to apply and be a Big. If you decide mentoring isn’t the right fit for you, there are lots of other ways to support your local mentoring organization. But you’ll never know until you ask for more information!
5. What is something that is really special about your program?
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County is special because of the level of support and involvement we provide for our matches. Case managers meet with Bigs, Littles, and Families in the program each month to check in on their matches and provide advice/resources/support as needed. We also strive to provide opportunities for our matches to experience things that they wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise, particularly on a free/inexpensive budget. We partner with local businesses to provide discounts and free passes, seek out donated tickets to local events, and host events for matches and families to enjoy each month during the school year. During the summer, many children who are matched with college students don’t get to see their Bigs regularly. Our staff helps those families find scholarships to send their children to camp so they aren’t missing out on enrichment activities. We are deeply connected with the community, our Bigs, and the families in our program to provide the most comprehensive support possible.