February 21, 2017 - Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass (BBBS) kicked off their 60th Anniversary year today with the announcement of two new volunteer programs – City Mentors and Bigs in Blue - in partnership with the City of Lexington, the Lexington Police Department, and Fayette County Public Schools. Through these two programs and a special 60th Anniversary fundraising campaign, BBBS will continue to grow and serve more children with one-to-one mentoring throughout Fayette County. (Watch news conference.)
“It is our goal to serve 600 children or more each year by 2020,” said Kevin Stinnett, Lexington Councilmember-at-Large and BBBS 60th Anniversary Chair. “In order to do that, we need the help of our community partners – the city, Lexington Police Department, and Fayette County Public Schools – and we need the help of our community to help financially support this growth. Through these exciting developments, we hope to strengthen what we have built these last 60 years.”
LFUCG recently kicked off its City Mentors program, which allows city employees to volunteer for up to two hours a week as a mentor with one of four agencies, including BBBS. The City Mentors program was based on similar programs throughout the country, including the Mayor’s Mentors program in Louisville. Laura Hatfield, Partners For Youth Executive Director, researched and designed the model in Lexington, working with community partners and Social Services Commissioner Chris Ford’s office.
“We’re encouraging businesses to get involved with mentoring,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “You don’t need to be perfect. You just have to be there for a young person. The time investment is modest. The emotional and community benefits are enormous.”
Bigs in Blue is a national Big Brothers Big Sisters program partnering police officers with the community in mentoring relationships. The Lexington Police Department is now beginning its own Bigs in Blue program in Lexington, encouraging police officers to enroll as a mentor in the BBBS program.
"The Lexington Police Department has made growing our partnership with Fayette County Public Schools a priority, through D.A.R.E. classes and sponsoring academic teams, and now through Bigs in Blue," Chief Mark Barnard said. "The relationships that will develop because of these programs are needed both now and for the future of Lexington."
Each of these programs supports children in BBBS’ school-based programs within Fayette County Public Schools. Most recently, BBBS began a school program at William Wells Brown Elementary School, where more than 35 children have received in-school mentoring in the past two school years. With increased volunteers and financial assistance, BBBS will be able to expand this program into similar schools throughout the district.
With many children across the state facing different forms of adversity, prevention programs are often a solution that reduces juvenile crime and delinquency, reduces substance abuse, increases school performance and attendance, and decreases the likelihood of children committing violent acts.
“BBBS is a program that not only benefits the children, families, and volunteers involved, but the entire community as a whole,” said Alan Stein, BBBS Board Member and Past Board Chair of Commerce Lexington. “With a time investment of only about an hour each week, adults can make an incredible impact on the life of a young person and, in turn, positively impact the entire community. There might not be a simpler way to see this kind of impact.”
BBBS enrolls children, ages 6-13, across Central Kentucky and matches them with adult volunteers, ages 18 and older. The volunteer time commitment is typically one hour a week for a minimum of a year. BBBS serves about 500 children each year. More than 200 children are currently on its waiting list, 70% of which are boys. The average time a child waits for a big is over a year and boys wait significantly longer than girls.
“Over the past 60 years, we have seen the benefits of caring mentors and the great impact they have on a child’s life,” said Andrea Ooten, BBBS President & CEO. “Through the collaborative efforts of our agency, the City of Lexington, the Lexington Police Department, Fayette County Public Schools, and a community full of willing volunteers, we can continue to serve children facing adversity and work toward our vision that all children achieve success in life. We hope that you’ll consider volunteering, donating to our 60th Anniversary Campaign, or joining us at one of our upcoming fundraising events to help support these efforts.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass is a non-profit agency that provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. BBBS of the Bluegrass is committed to enhancing its role as part of a collaborative system of support that leads to positive outcomes for Central Kentucky’s youth. BBBS of the Bluegrass partners with families, donors, volunteers, schools, government, and other organizations to provide children facing adversity with the tools they need to not only succeed, but thrive. For more than 60 years, BBBS of the Bluegrass has worked throughout the Central Kentucky region to help children stay in school and out of trouble.