|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Sunday, 18 December 2011 00:00|
Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Verde Valley hosted a breakfast meeting Dec. 7 to pair nearly 25 area boys with men willing to spend as little as six hours a month with them.
Nobody showed up.
The lack of participation surprised BBBS Community Outreach Director Dean Patterson, who wrote press releases published or announced by local media weeks in advance of the meeting.
Patterson also attended a meeting with church and civic leaders a week before to explain the situation. He thought they heard and understood the need to find more male “Bigs,” a word used to describe the men and women who volunteer their time for the “Littles.”
None of the church or civic leaders showed for the Dec. 7 meeting either. Times are tough and many men hesitate to take on an obligation they believe they cannot afford, Patterson said.
The biggest concern most men voice when asked to participate in the program is how much time and how much money they might be expected to spend with their boy, he said.
“With women it’s different,” he said. “Women are naturally more nurturing. They usually don’t ask any questions. They just volunteer.”
All the Verde Valley girls currently enrolled in the program have been matched to their Big, Senior Match Adviser Gwen Reynolds said, but not enough men are willing to step up for the boys. Currently, BBBS has matched 95 Bigs and Littles, but many more male Bigs are needed.
“They just need somebody to hang out with,” Reynolds said. “They don’t need a new computer game. Most boys are just waiting for somebody to shoot baskets with. What you’re giving is the gift of time.”
“These are at-risk kids,” BBBS board chairman Jerry Showalter said. “Most of them come from single-parent families. Most live in a home with their mother or grandmother. They’re surrounded by women. Mom is working two or three jobs to make ends meet. There is no male influence.”
Realizing this, Showalter’s first outing with his Little was to haul a load of trash to the Yavapai County Transfer Station.
“We went for a dump run,” Showalter said. “He had never been to the dump before and he had a great time. He really enjoyed it.”
Another popular way to spend time with a Little is taking them to church — with the advance approval of the parent, of course. It is an activity many Littles have never experienced, Patterson said.
BBBS will do whatever it takes to support a Big who is trying to think of ways to spend time with their Little, Reynolds said.
“We will help support you every way we can,” she said.
Katherine Ginzel, a woman who just started spending time with her Little, said the experience has improved the quality of her life.
“It’s been a long time since I spent time with children,” Ginzel said. “I feel like I can be in a real position of influence. It’s also reminded me how to play again.”
Statistics gathered by the organization nationally show children who have a mentor are more confident in school and perform better, are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to start drinking alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
For more information, call 634-9789.
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