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Big Brothers Big Sisters looking for volunteer Bigs to connect with Littles in need of an adult mentor

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati (BBBS) is celebrating National Mentoring Month. “The goal is to provide a positive adult role model for a child, one who they can count on that they know will be there for them,” says Donna Herrmann-Vogel, Chief Program Officer. Northern Kentucky kids are waiting, in need of volunteers to be mentors or “Bigs.”

Donna Herrmann-Vogel

BBBS has not stopped looking for Bigs or Littles and connecting the two during COVID. They have continued by working from home, conducting virtual interviews, and making virtual introductions. In 2020 BBBS made 188 new introductions, serving 1,025 kids.

Herrmann-Vogel says, “I am proud to say I am one of those matches made in 2020. I am a Big Sister and have enjoyed every minute of it.”

Parents may be overwhelmed right now, dealing with virtual learning, their work, and issues going on during this time. This is all the more reason to sign your child up for BBBS.

“It’s always nice to have somebody in your life who is there just for you, someone outside of your family,” Herrmann-Vogel says.

Children need someone who is checking on them and who is interested in what they are. With the ongoing pandemic, says Herrmann-Vogel, they need more coping tools for their toolbox. The relationships provided by the mentors can help heal all kinds of wounds and problems kids have had in their life, research shows she says.

“A lot of kids are struggling more so now than ever due to the pandemic. It’s a scary time for them. Things are uncertain and I know that the matches that we have made during COVID helped kids to feel more secure and strengthened their resilience,” says Herrmann-Vogel.

LS Athena and Big Sister Sydney Kilgore (Photos provided)

BBBS is in an unusual situation. They need mentors but they also need girls. It may be due to COVID and people not thinking BBBS is continuing to make matches, but they have fewer kids, in general, asking to be matched, says Herrmann-Vogel. Girls, especially younger girls between the ages of 7 to 12, are most requested by Bigs.

Being a Little Sister or Brother is fun.

“I get to do something I haven’t really done before, having a better time, and going to fun places,” says Kailyn, my own Little Sister. “You won’t be bored,” Kailyn says about why you should sign up.

I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my Little Sister Kailyn. I have never laughed so much in my life and we always find ourselves on some kind of adventure.

BB Austin Studer and Trenton

Besides having fun, there are those times when she lifts me up. She will send me a text, something which not only tells me that she is thinking of me, but also that she trusts me, and I am in her inner circle. It is such a wonderful feeling.

The boys always have a longer waiting list than the girls. The boys need men to mentor them. Herrmann-Vogel suggests this is because they get more requests for boys to be mentored but more women than men volunteer. This leaves the boys waiting.

So why mentor? It is simple, the kids need you.

“Kids are struggling, and they need someone to help them cope and to build their resilience,” says Herrmann-Vogel.

Experience working with kids is not needed. All Bigs are assigned a Match Support Specialist, says Herrmann-Vogel. The Match Support Specialist works for the agency and is always there for help. The Specialists checks in with the mentor once a month and are available to call for questions anytime.

If the mentor has a situation or experience they feel they need to talk about, the Match Support Specialist is available.

“They have somebody who can help them and coach them through circumstances that might come up that they’re not familiar with or have questions about,” she says.

Building resilience in kids is important.

“That’s going to ensure their success in life,” says Herrmann-Vogel. “The kids will have failures, everyone does. But having someone who is there, helping them build resilience, they will be in a better position making it through life’s challenges,” she says.

Big Brother Simon Han and Elijah

Bigs do not have to be an expert in child development or have experience parenting. What matters most is including your Little in your life. Wanting to spend time with the child speaks volumes. Not having any children, this was a concern for me but has not at all been an issue. I am there for her for fun times and listen when she talks. We make plans together, both of us giving input and deciding together. Being there is what it is all about.

But please be aware of the commitment. Being committed to the Little is important. A lot of the kids have had experiences with people not being in their life and not following through, Herrmann-Vogel says. Be there, be someone the Little can count on.

Herrmann-Vogel was a Big. Matched when her Little Sister was seven, her little sister is now 22.

“We are still together; it’s been a great experience. You think that they’re not going to need you as they get older, but they do,” she says. She says when they get into adulthood oftentimes, they need you more.

You truly can make a difference in the life of a child by volunteering to be a Big. It is something as easy as spending time with a child and so special that it might change your life too.

Big Sister Ashley Kuemmerling and Malea

Big Brother Terrence and his Little Brother

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  1. Victoria Greco says:

    What is the contact information to become a Big Sister ?

    • Judy Clabes says:

      Click on the very first link in the story — Big Brothers Big Sisters — and you will go to the web page where there is a link for signing up as a volunteer. It will have other contact information as well.

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