Peoria’s Big Brothers, Big Sisters Chapter Seeking More Mentors
Peoria's Heart of Illinois Big Brothers, Big Sisters chapter hopes a month-long campaign to recruit mentors will trim its waiting list.
BBBS Director of Development Sydney Daniels said the “30-Bigs-In-30-Days” drive seeks volunteers age 16 and older who can meet with their “Little” up to four times each month for a couple hours each time.
“We always have a youth wait list of kids that are waiting to be matched with ‘Bigs’ and right now that waiting list, it's around 80 kids,” said Daniels. “Of those 80 kids, more than 85% of them are Little Brothers — young men in our community that are waiting to be matched with a big brother. So like all Big Brothers, Big Sisters agencies nationwide, we have a huge need for male volunteers.
“That's not to say that there's a greater need with male youth in our community, but rather a lack of male volunteers. Less than 20% of the volunteer inquiries that we receive each month are male. So, unfortunately, that means that (our) Little Brothers typically wait anywhere from 1-2 years to be matched in the program.”
Daniels said past recruitment campaigns specifically targeted male volunteers.
“We've done ’30 Dudes In 30 Days’ and those were all really great with the effort of recruiting men,” she said. “Still, we noticed that even when we did that, we were still getting a lot of female inquiries. So, we decided to just open it up to everyone and see who we can bring in.”
Daniels said the agency enrolls “Littles” from age 5-14, and then kids can stay in the program until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. She said the HOI branch primarily serves Peoria County, but also works in Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton, and Knox counties.
“We don't have any specific requirements for Littles to be enrolled in our program, other than that they have to want to be in the program and want to be matched with a Big,” she said. “But we do see a lot of families that lived in poverty; we see a lot of single-parent households and that kind of thing. So we're just kind of offering another outside source of support for kids in those situations.”
Daniels said the enrollment process for mentors includes an interview, which can be done in person or virtually, and a background check. She said retirees often make the best Bigs.
“We ask for at least a one-year commitment from the Big and the Little, just because it takes a little bit of time to build a relationship they'll trust,” she said. “From there, matches do whatever they're both interested in; we match based off of shared interests so that they have kind of a good foundation to start their relationship.”