BBBS in urgent need of volunteers

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District is looking to find 40 mentors in 40 days. Photo supplied

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With 40 youth on the waitlist to be matched, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Lacombe and District is in urgent need of mentorship volunteers.

In effort to alleviate the need, the local chapter officially launched their 40 Mentors in 40 Days campaign on Sept. 1, and while the first few days have already seen the recruit of three new mentors, they’re still looking for more.

BBBS Executive Director Crystal Zens says it’s not unusual to have this many on the waitlist at the start of the school year, in particular for those in need of in-school mentorship.

“There’s usually more kids in the waitlist in September than there is in June, because this is when all the teachers are referring the kids,” said Zens.  “It’s a lot of fun mentoring – one of the big things our mentors tell us is they can’t believe how much they get back from mentoring.”

Prospective mentors will be required to go through a screening process, which includes a criminal record check, having three references and ensuring mentors are able to give an hour of their time each week to spend time with their littles.

For many, the time commitment wouldn’t be too cumbersome, as she said many businesses in the community wholly support mentorship, even allowing staff members to take an hour away from work to mentor those in school.

Mentors are needed throughout BBBS of Lacombe and District’s coverage area, including Eckville, Bentley, Lacombe, Blackfalds,

While mentors of all cultural backgrounds, as well as those across the gender spectrum are needed, male volunteers are particularly in demand, as there’s typically a greater number of boys in need of mentorship.

“There’s always a bigger need for male volunteers than females. We do cross gender match in in-school programs, but for the community program males are always our biggest need,” said Zens.

According to statistics provided by BBBS, youth mentored through their programs are 17 per cent more likely to be gainfully employed as adults, and earn 13 per cent more on average in these jobs – resulting in $315,000 worth of increased earnings  over the course of their career.

More importantly, youth are given help and guidance in overcoming some of the obstacles life throws their way.

“Many young Canadians struggle with societal barriers and face adversities in their lives like detrimental living conditions and family violence, mental health and school issues as well as identity challenges,” said Matthew Chater, the national president and CEO of BBBS.

“Simply having someone who listens and encourages them, youth can transform into confident and motivated young people and, more importantly, break cycles of poverty and crime and curb the development of mental health issues.”

The local 40 Mentors in 40 Days campaign is part of a larger nationwide mentorship drive, and with September also being Big Brothers Big Sisters Month, it won’t be the only awareness event or festivity for the organization.

BBBS will formally celebrate BBBS month with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a BBBS Bamford House Open House on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The ribbon cutting will take place at 12:30 p.m. with dignitaries on hand, and a Beaver Tails Food Truck will be on site from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

In addition, they’re hosting a fun “Paint it Purple” event, where businesses can adopt a kit free of charge and use it to create their best decorative display using BBBS balloons, streams and other kit decorations to show support for BBBS programming, as well as raise awareness of the need for volunteers. More than 15 business in Lacombe have adopted kits so far, and there are still 8-10 kits left. Those interested can contact BBBS by visiting their website at lacombe.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca or by phoning the office at (403)782-7870.

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