Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri is facing a volunteer shortage.
More than 600 kids are waiting for a mentor — and about 80 percent are African American boys.
The local branch of the nonprofit is launching a program in the hopes of filling the volunteer gap and building trust within communities of color. The “Big Responders” program will pair police officers, paramedics and firefighters with kids in the St. Louis area.
The goal is for both sides to learn from one another, said Linda Robinson, director of volunteer recruitment for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri.
“For a young child to be partnered up with a firefighter or a police officer, it changes the outlook for both sides,” Robinson said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has partnered with community leaders to help recruit first responders for the program, including Dan Isom, former St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief, and Cliff Robinson, Florissant Valley Fire Protection District deputy chief.
The nonprofit is placing a high priority on recruiting African American males to be mentors, said Robinson.
Program organizers match kids (“littles”) with mentors (“bigs”), based on their interests. Kids in the program range in age from 5 to 17 and live throughout the city of St. Louis as well as St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
The nonprofit asks that pairs spend at least four hours together each month for a minimum of one year.
The point is for bigs and littles to enjoy their time together — whether they’re playing games, going to free outdoor events or picking out their favorite custard flavor.
The program isn’t meant to “save” kids, but instead to give them new experiences in life, Robinson said.
“We just need someone to come in and show our youth something different,” she said. “To be a friend, to let them know, ‘Hey, I’m there for you, and you’re going to be successful.’”
For information on volunteer opportunities with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, contact Linda Robinson at 314-633-0024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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