Big Brothers group seeks coordinator

The Big Brothers, Big Sisters program may soon grow in Washington County, with officials looking for a county coordinator to jumpstart the chapter.

Through the end of the week the Athens County Big Brothers, Big Sisters will be accepting applications for a Washington County coordinator.

Tracy Kelly, executive director for the organization, said applications are still being accepted.

“We’re still in the application submission part,” she said, adding that the hope was to start training as soon as possible to have a coordinator ready to go in April.

Kelly said some qualifications are written and verbal communication skills and the person must be “excited about working with children.” The coordinator must also be willing to work out of the Marietta office, which will be located inside the Washington County Family and Children First office at 202 Davis Ave.

Community Based Program Coordinator Eric Long said the position will be just part-time, at 15 hours each week.

“The national standard requires that any case worker doing a community-based activity have a bachelor’s degree,” he said, adding, “It really can be in anything.”

Long said despite the fact that the degree can be in anything, it is usually preferred that it be in education or social services. He added that coordinators work with children applying to be “littles” and the volunteers trying to be Big Brothers and Sisters, and try to make the perfect match between the two.

Kelly said one application has been received and another inquiry has been made for the position so far. She added that applicants must be willing to have a background check.

Long said any child ages 5 to 17 who lives in Washington County is eligible to become what the organization calls “littles,” or a little brother or little sister.

There is an interview process each “little” and each volunteer must go through. Long said he is active in the interview process, going to each family’s home and talking to the children and family.

“A lot of the children we work with are facing adversity,” he said, adding that they could come from an abusive family or could be a child of an inmate. He also said many of the children the organization helps are just children who want a role model.

“We pride ourselves on making compatible and intentional matches,” Long said.

This means that matches between “littles” and “bigs” are not made based on who applies at the same time. Long said maybe both have gone through a parent’s divorce or they just really love horseback riding.

“It’s really getting to know their backgrounds to make it intentional,” he said.

Each volunteer goes through training and is required to make a one-year commitment and have around four hours each month with their “little.”

“Some matches go above and beyond four hours a month,” Long said, adding that time could be spend doing any activity from watching movies to helping with homework and going to sporting events to making crafts.

Marietta College seniors Nicole Schaly and Jake Double make up a Big couple, where they mentor the same little, Katelynne.

Schaly said there is a big need for the program to be expanded into Washington County.

“From our conversations with Eric, there is a long waiting list for ‘littles’ to have ‘bigs’ matched to them,” she said. “The ‘little’ that we have was on that waiting list for over a year before becoming matched to a ‘big.'”

Double said the benefits of an expansion in Washington County would be huge.

“It is an excellent program and a great way to positively influence the life of a child or teenager that really needs guidance,” he said. “Not only are we able to influence our ‘little,’ but they also have an impact on our lives. Being a role model in the life of someone else is certainly rewarding.”

Kelly said anyone can be a Big Brother or Big Sister.

“Being a role model for a little doesn’t involve a particular socio-economic background,” she said. “It’s really about how much time you’re willing to put in.”

Long added that being a role model could just involve letting the “little” see how the Big Brother or Sister acts in day to day life.

“You’re doing stuff everyday-have your little brother or sister tag along,” he said. “It’s so the kids can actually see how the volunteers are working and living in the community. It’s one of the best ways to be a role model.”