Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri has a plan.
By the end of 2019, the organization intends to recruit 90 men to support, mentor and develop 90 "Little Brothers."
Currently, the agency serves about 1,800 young girls and boys. However, there are more than 400 boys still in need of a mentor.
This is the organization’s second year recruiting through the campaign called “90 Men in 90 Days.” And this year, the program is specifically seeking more African American men to join because about 80% of the Little Brothers waiting to be paired up are black.
“The Little Brothers will benefit from someone who’s just an ordinary person that get up and go to work, regardless of what their profession is and their environment,” said Linda Robinson, the agency’s director of volunteer recruitment. “Those African American males probably came from the same environment they did, and they made it out.”
Mentors (“Bigs”) are matched to their mentees (“Littles”) by compatibility and interests. A Big must be at least 18 years old, a high school graduate and a car owner. The agency will also process background and reference checks. The men are required to spend four hours a month with their Littles for at least 12 months.
Bigs are only paired with one mentee during the 12-month commitment period so that, Robinson said, the one-on-one relationship has a greater impact on both the Little Brother and Big Brother.
Kittrel Braselman is the city of Black Jack’s director of public works and is in his first year of being a Big Brother. He said that the beginning of his relationship with his mentee, it was hard. His Little did not trust him. But after a few outings together, they bonded over food and sports.
“He is excited to have a male figure in his life, and I have really taught him a lot throughout the year. I have just really been trying to support him in what he does,” Braselman said.
Braselman’s 11-year-old Little does not have a male figure in his home, so Braselman feels it is his duty to show up to all of his Little’s sporting events and musical recitals.
Robinson said most mentors and mentees build such a strong relationship that some of them have traveled together and even participated in their Big’s weddings.
As a Big Brother, Braselman said he plans to be in his Little’s life for the long term. Braselman said he cannot take his own two children anywhere anymore without his kids asking if Braselman’s mentee is joining them for the day.
“You have to show (Littles) what’s outside of their everyday living, (and) that there's more to life than what you see,” Braselman said.
Want to get involved?
Andrea Y. Henderson is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City and Portland, Oregon. Follow Andrea on Twitter at @drebjournalist.
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