SUPPORT - Dave Ross of the Lacombe Kinsmen recently presented a cheque for $500 to Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Crystal Zens on behalf of the organization. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

Big Brothers Big Sisters Lacombe seeks program mentors

‘40 Mentors in 40 Days’ campaign is officially underway

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe is on the lookout for local residents to sign up for a rewarding stint in volunteering with the organization.

There are several mentoring programs that folks can join where they can have a very profound impact on the life of a young person, explained Crystal Zens, the organization’s executive director. It’s also a key time of year for them as it’s National Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in September as well.

“We have a really exciting tie-in with Lacombe this year because the campaign theme nationally is ‘Who Will They Become?’ So there have been a a handful of ambassadors from across Canada – hockey players, broadcasters – successful Canadians that started out as little brothers or little sisters. And one of them is (Lacombe native) Gord Bamford, so that is fabulous,” she said.

“That partnership and his ambassadorship was announced at the Bamford Gala which was held in August. They did a little commercial and a promo video of him with his ‘big brother’ Allan Brown which is pretty neat,” she added.

‘There is only a handful of them from Canada and one happens to be from Lacombe, so we are excited to launch that.”

Zens said that each September, the organization also runs a campaign mainly focused on in-school mentoring and teen mentors, which is called ‘40 Mentors in 40 Days’.

Last year, the campaign wasn’t held in the City because staff and volunteers were busy with a move, so this year there is an even bigger need for people in the community to come onboard and lend a helping hand.

“We generally have 20 to 25 kids on the wait list, but we have about 40 this year. So it goes hand in hand with ‘40 Mentors in 40 Days’,” she said with a smile. “We also do the campaign in every community that we serve, which includes Alix, Bentley, Blackfalds and Lacombe. We’ve recently taken on Eckville as well.”

Zens said to help spread the word about 40 Mentors in 40 Days, some awareness-building events are set to run over the next while as well.

“We recruited three mentors from our open house last week, which was our kick-off to the campaign,” she said. “We are really encouraging people to give one hour a week – it’s like the length of a TV show. It’s so much fun, and if you ask any of our mentors, they get just as much out of it as the kids. It has such a huge impact for just a little investment.”

Zens said the in-school mentoring program is where the need is the biggest these days. This is where a mentor will be matched with a youngster in school, and Big Brothers and the schools provide all of the activities and supplies.

“It’s meant to encourage children to bond with a mentor. They practice lifeskills, they do baking, play games; it’s about trying to support the child in an environment where they might need a little extra support and maybe even a break from curriculum,” she explained.

“Lots of our mentors return to the same student year after year – but it really is just for that (particular) school year commitment.”

There is no cost, as the mentors and the students can use school amenities, too.

“Our agency also has teen mentoring – that is an awesome program for teens to give back to their communities and start volunteering.

“We connect them with a student in elementary school – it’s an awesome program and they bond really quickly with the kids.”

These mentors can even get credits through their school work experience programs, as well as have something terrific to put on future resumes – plus Zens said they help the students with scholarship application letters.

“But mainly, having the teens give back to the community and it’s a great partnership with the high school.”

There are also other opportunities for mentoring, such as community mentoring programs, too.

“We also have lots of community-based businesses that support mentoring and volunteering – here and in Blackfalds, too. The business will allow the employee to leave for an hour a week to volunteer which is amazing. It’s community-driven, it excites the employee and it’s good for morale around the office as well.

“It’s really a fun way for the businesses to network and to team-build, too,” she said.

Overall, it’s a great experience for both mentors and the young people that they are partnered with.

“It just broadens’ people’s experiences.” It’s fun, too. Times together can provide a real break from the weekly routine.

“One of our male mentors said the child comes out when it’s time to do something, and he runs down the hall because he is so excited to see him. You just can’t put words to how that makes you feel.”

Zens said that for those unsure of whether mentoring is truly for them or not, a great place to start is via the in-school mentoring program because there is already a built-in support system right there with the staff and such.

“I think the one hour a week in the schools is a great place to start because you have a huge team every time you go,” she explained. “You are there in a team-setting, so it’s a great place to start mentoring and volunteering.”

For more information, check out www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca or cal the local office at 403-782-7870.

news@lacombeexpress.com