Want to bring Big change to a kid’s life? Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks mentors

Jessica Fuller • May 18, 2018 at 9:21 AM

By the end of the year, the lives of 140 children will be changed by a program that planted its foundation in East Tennessee more than 30 years ago.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee is taking applications from adults who want to make a big impact on a child’s life through the organization’s mentoring program. The Tri-Cities branch serves children and mentors throughout the Tri-Cities area, but are actively taking applications from possible mentors in Johnson City to match with a child who would use another caring, consistent adult in their life.

Kathy Lowdermilk, regional director for BBBS of the Greater Tri-Cities, said the program is looking for adults with a passion for kids who has at least four to six hours a month to devote to spending time with their little brother or sister.

Some of the children in the program have adults who are in an out of their lives, Lowdermilk said, so the focus of being a mentor is being able to be consistent in the child’s life to build a relationship with them and make a difference.

“We ask for a year minimum, so you have to commit to a year,” Lowdermilk said. “We have college students that participate, we have empty nesters who are looking to fill some time.”

The organization is also taking applications for little brothers and sisters — children of untraditional families, perhaps those being raised by grandparents or a single parent who could use an additional positive adult influence.

Melissa Dixon is a matching specialist for the organization. That means she goes through applications from mentors and children and pairs them up according to their interests and personalities. She’s also a big sister to a 9-year-old named Allie through the organization’s site-based program, and the pair have been getting to know each other at Allie’s school for the past nine months.

“I enjoy working with children of course, I have been able to see the benefit that this program provides,” Dixon said. “I wanted to make a difference in the life of a kid, I also wanted to bring a little extra joy to my life.”

The program offers a few options for visits — community-based and site-based. The site-based program is a little more controlled, Dixon said.

Mentors and kids meet at a the child’s school for a few hours a month to talk about common interests, color, do crafts together and get to know each other. In the community-based program, the pairs go out and do things like watch movies, go to a museum or a baseball game for a few hours a month.

Dixon said it’s best if potential mentors don’t have any life changes in the next year that would require them to move away or remove themselves from the child’s life abruptly. In addition, applicants will be subjected to a full criminal background check before setting up an interview with BBBS staff. Once matched, the mentor will meet their little brother or sister and their guardian.

Dixon admitted the process can seem a little daunting for new applicants, but as a big sister herself, she said it’s all worth the fun and difference she’s making in Allie’s life.

“Going to see her every week is definitely the highlight of my week,” she said.

Applications for mentors and children are available at tennesseebig.org, or a paper application can be requested by calling 247-3240.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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