Big Brothers Big Sisters is about to launch their annual 20 Mentors in 20 Days mentor recruitment campaign.
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Lacombe and District Executive Director Crystal Zens said this year the campaign is more important than ever as the need for volunteers is greater than before. She added with the school year resuming, BBBS is already at their greatest need. “It’s back to school, so that’s our biggest need for mentors.”
Zens said there are a number of reasons why BBBS needs more mentors this year. They have expanded their programming into Eckville and the Blackfalds program has grown considerably this year as well, even having its own office space at Blackfalds FCSS. She added each year BBBS receives more referrals and there are always a few mentors lost because of changing life situations liking moving to other locations.
BBBS Case Worker Karissa Zuidhof said she already has 12 young boys in Lacombe waiting for mentors in the traditional program and that is before school referrals have begun to come in, so there is always a growing need for mentors.
“There is a big need already,” said Zuidhof. “There is always more that we need.”
Although the campaign is called 20 Mentors in 20 Days, Zens said they are hoping for more – between 30 and 40 mentors – this year.
Currently, BBBS is in need of in school mentors particularly. Zens said the in school mentorship program is a good way for beginner mentors to become familiar with the program as well. It is only one hour a week for the length of the school year and there are many supports.
“It’s a great place to start,” said Zens. “You are in a team environment in the school and the schools are very supportive.”
For the in school mentoring program a lot of the work is taken care of by BBBS. Zens said the organization provides the activities and the space, all mentors need to do is be available and show up. She went on to say many mentors who have joined the in school mentorship program have moved into the traditional program because they have enjoyed it so much.
Zens also said the matching process for Lacombe and District has a high success rate. She added the training process for volunteer mentors is very in depth so mentors know exactly what they are getting into.
“They go in with their eyes wide open, and that’s before they are ever matched with a child,” said Zens.
Once volunteers are matched, they continue to get support from BBBS. Zuidhof said that a few ‘mentoring mentors’ workshop sessions are held each year. These opportunities enable mentors to get advice from other mentors and also promotes networking between mentors.
“Sometimes when you are in it, it’s easy to feel alone,” said Zuidhof. “But when you join a team of mentors who are already mentoring, it becomes easier.”
This campaign runs for 20 days, but Zens said she and the rest of the BBBS team like to begin recruiting earlier and continue to have some events after the 20 days as well. There is also nothing stopping anyone from signing up outside of this recruitment campaign.
While the campaign doesn’t officially kick off until Sept. 16th, Zens said BBBS has already started raising awareness for the program. They had a presence at the recent Active Living Fair this past Tuesday and are planning to be at upcoming Farmers’ Markets in Lacombe and Blackfalds.
Once the campaign really gets underway there will be a number of events where the organization will be putting themselves in the public and doing their best to recruit more mentors. Zens said that they plan once again to run lemonade stands this year, with locations in Blackfalds, Lacombe, Bentley and Eckville starting Sept 25th.
Also happening again this year starting that same day is the Corporate Pie Giveaway in Blackfalds and Lacombe where BBBS gives pies to local business. Zens said this is usually a successful part of the campaign, usually resulting in a few new businesses joining the mentorship program and encouraging mentorship among their employees.
Throughout the campaign, the organization will also have a presence on social media. Zens said they are planning to have some giveaways and small contests through Facebook to help spread the word about their programs.
As part of the 20 Mentors in 20 Days campaign, BBBS will also be doing some things to promote United Way, who supports the in school mentorship program. Zens said they will have donation jars at their lemonade stands and will also be having a ‘Paint the Town Red’ day where they canvas communities while dressed in red.