PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Share a little time, make a big difference

Courtesy photo
  AELP's Patricia Hull and Richelle Burns review Douglas street maps with BBBS partnership director Betsy Brenneman as they distribute hundreds of fliers door-to-door in Douglas during United Way's "Day of Caring" on Thursday, Oct. 5. The fliers urge residents to mentor a student one hour a week by volunteering as a BBBS in the popular school program.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska has launched The BIG Campaign, a regional media and outreach effort to recruit more volunteers and showcase the success of its award-winning mentoring program. The agency is encouraging potential adult mentors from Yakutat to Ketchikan to "Share a little time. Make a big difference."

"Our goal is to have more than 225 Southeast residents contact us about becoming Big Brothers and Big Sisters by Dec. 1," said BBBS executive director Marc Wheeler. "We know from research and our own experience that lives are changed because of our unique brand of one-to-one mentoring. A friendship with a caring adult mentor can open a world of possibilities for a child."

More than 120 children across the region are ready to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister.

"We want to get the word out that this a perfect time for folks to step forward who've been thinking about becoming mentors," Wheeler said.

As part of the campaign, BBBS recently sent a letter urging current "Bigs" and friends of BBBS to refer coworkers, neighbors, family and friends to the program. As of Sept. 30, 76 people have called or sent an e-mail the agency to inquire about volunteering.

Male volunteers are especially in demand. Across Southeast Alaska more than 80 boys are waiting to be matched with a Big Brother. In order to better understand the needs of male volunteers, BBBS recently completed an online survey of current and former Big Brothers in Southeast and received responses from more than 70 men, a nearly 40 percent response rate.

The results revealed not having enough time to volunteer and the length of the commitment may be initial stumbling blocks to volunteering.

"But the survey also showed once men signed on, they were surprised at how easy and it was to be a Big Brother with strong support from our staff, activities we plan, and the sheer fun of hanging out with a kid," Wheeler said.

During the next two months current Big Brothers from Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Haines will urge men to volunteer through radio, print and TV ads and posters distributed throughout the region.

Volunteers featured include:

• Alaska Marine Highway captain Tom Moore of Ketchikan who has been a Big Brother for three years. "The highlight for me is the time I get to spend with Jesse," Moore said. "I work two weeks on and two weeks off, but we get together for hikes, and we both enjoy that. It's a win-win situation for both of us."

• UAS Juneau student Adam Arca who is matched in the School Program with Issac. "Playing kick ball at recess with him brings back old memories of when I was a kid. It actually makes me feel like I was a kid again," Arca said.

• Matt Keiper, a rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard in Sitka. He said at first he was nervous about becoming a Big. "But I wanted to make a difference, and my 9-year-old Little has been a lot of fun," Keiper said. "We have gone canoeing and hiking, but also just goofing off and throwing rocks into the water."

Juneau Youth Football League helped kick off The BIG Campaign in Juneau Sept. 30, by donating free game tickets for Big and Little Brothers to the final home high school football game of the season. "Big Brothers' Guys Night Out" featured Juneau Douglas High School head football coach Bill Chalmers speaking to Big and Little Brothers at a pre-game tailgate party about the importance of male role models in the lives of young boys. "You don't know how important you are," Chalmers said to the Big Brothers present. BBBS also was recognized during halftime.

Events in other communities in the region will take place throughout the fall BBBS of Southeast Alaska has a goal of serving 633 youth in one-to-one mentoring relationships in 2006 in the communities of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Yakutat, Hoonah, Haines Skagway, Klukwan and Metlakatla.