Big Brothers Big Sisters hoping to “End Their Wait” for 56 kids on waitlist for local mentors

With a sharp decrease in volunteer applications to Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Great Lakes Bay Region, the organization and our community’s young people need us now more than ever. 

Matt Collins is the communications and events manager at BBBS.“Our community is still recovering from the stress and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Matt Collins, communications and events manager at BBBS. “As a result, we’ve seen a sharp decline in our number of applications for new Bigs since March 2020. The tough reality is that the kids on our waitlist come from families impacted the hardest by the pandemic, and they’re falling behind their peers quickly.”

Serving at-risk youth in the Midland, Saginaw, Bay and Isabella Counties, BBBS offers children from the ages of 6-12 one-on-one mentoring. Collins says the mission of the organization is to ignite the power and promise of youth. 

“We believe that every child is born with potential, but sometimes it takes a caring adult mentor to ignite, empower and defend it,” says Collins. 

Children are referred to the program by parents, guardians, teachers, counselors, therapists and religious leaders to be matched with adult mentors aged 16 and up. 

“We believe that every child is born with potential, but sometimes it takes a caring adult mentor to ignite, empower and defend it."“Match Coordinators conduct a thorough interview, screening and background check process to ensure child safety, and to make sure that they aren’t just making a match, but that they make the right match.”
 
After the match, Bigs and Littles meet a few times, participating in low or no-cost activities throughout the month like walks, games, cooking, library visits, local sporting events, dining out, or attending live entertainment. Collins says each Big is asked to commit at least one year to their Little, but many mentoring relationships last much longer, developing into lifelong friendships. 
 
“The need for mentors is the most urgent we’ve ever seen,” says Collins. “As the kids on our waitlist face another year of changes and uncertainty at school and at This fall, they launched the “End Their Wait” recruitment campaign to help find mentors for the 56 kids on the waitlist, some of whom have waited for three years. 
 Signs have been placed in yards to promote the campaign.
Many BBBS supporters have placed signs in their yards to promote the campaign. The goal is to get all of the 56 kids paired up with a Big before the end of 2021, according to Collins. 
 
“We want our community members to understand that even a couple of hours of your time each month can make a big impact on a child in need of a mentor. We have children with a variety of interests, needs and personalities, and we want to find the right mentor for each and every one of them. Many people don’t think they’re qualified to be a mentor, but in the vast majority of cases, that is not true.”
 
Those interested in signing up to be a mentor can visit the “End Their Wait” website. They are also accepting virtual mentorships in response to the pandemic. To donate or learn more about upcoming fundraising events, visit BBBS online.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at spohn9@gmail.com.