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Two people involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tennessee Valley are ‘Little’ Ysidra and ‘Big’ Amy. Children and youth in BBBS have the title of ‘Little,’ while adult volunteers preface their names with ‘Big.’ PHOTO / Mike Moorer with Mike Moorer Photography

Big Brothers Big Sisters ‘matches’ enjoy fulfilling times

MADISON COUNTY – To observe National Mentoring Month, the Big Brothers Big Sisters or BBBS organization is planning times for fellowship for ‘matches’ and recruiting adults to volunteer.

A participant’s title is ‘Big’ for adults and ‘Little’ for youth. “Being a Big doesn’t take a lot of time or talent. The idea is to provide a role model or personal cheerleader for any child who needs or wants a mentor,” Michelle Linville said. Linville is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tennessee Valley.

For National Mentoring Month, “BBBS is celebrated by media spots and proclamations from multiple governmental entities. Honoring Our Mentors is a celebration on Jan. 27 at Early Works for our Bigs and those who go above and beyond for their organizations or companies,” Linville said.

Linville learned about BBBS early from her mother. “Mom took me and my sister to fundraisers with her coworkers, like ‘Bowl for Kids’ Sake’ in Indianapolis,” Linville said. In college, Michelle Linville interned at a Girls Club.

She learned that all children did not have all their needs met or have both parents at home. Years later, Linville participated in an advisory committee to expand BBBS in Kentucky, served on the board and worked for the agency. She worked at another agency before accepting the job in Huntsville.

’Bigs’ must be at least 18 years old. In a school-based program, minimum age is 16. Potential Bigs are vetted through background and reference checks and trained for child safety and child development. Bigs should commit to one hour weekly for at least one year.

Men are less likely to volunteer, which is a national problem. Men are concerned about work commitments, family time and finding activities with Littles. They often misunderstand the commitment’s scope.” We take all suggestions on how to recruit Bigs, especially men,” Linville said.

Linville has no doubt about BBBS’ effectiveness. “We can prove the Littles who go through our program are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to get involved in juvenile crime. (These) children face adversity, (but) with guidance of Bigs and guardians, become productive citizens and often volunteer themselves,” she said.

Each Little has a goal plan, usually discussed during teachable moments, that focuses on social, educational and behavioral skills. “They’re exposed to life experiences that most of us take for granted, like going to the movies or visiting companies with future job opportunities,” Linville said.

“We’re constantly in need of Bigs, especially men, and funds to support matches. While the Bigs volunteer, the vetting, training and ongoing support by professional staff have costs,” Linville said. “We’ve secured dollars from Huntsville and Madison to recruit ‘Bigs in Blue’ and are using assistance of existing Bigs and Precinct Captains to share our mission in front of officers,” Linville said.

BBBS’ address is 303 Williams Ave. SW, Suite 123 in Huntsville. For more information, call 256-880-2123 or visit bbbsna.org or Facebook/Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tennessee Valley.

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