Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates a little move Friday.
The nonprofit will hold a ribbon-cutting and sign unveiling at its new office at 64 E. North St. at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Executive Director Barrie Ann George said they weren’t looking for just another office when the decision was made to move from their previous office a block away, and she knew about a good option.
Pastor Ryan Brown of New Life Community Church had always said he wanted Big Brothers Big Sisters to be part of the human and community services center he envisioned for the former First United Methodist Church building at the corner of East North and North Bedford streets.
In May, Big Brothers Big Sisters made the move to New Life Community Church with the help of Dickinson College lacrosse players who carried smaller pieces of office furniture a block rather than wait to load trucks. Now the agency uses two rooms for offices, but has access to a conference room, interview rooms and ample parking.
“I see this office space as a deepening commitment to the community because we are becoming one of these partners in this building, which I think really can do a lot for people,” George said.
Everyone in the building works with people, so beyond the “wonderful spaces,” there’s a sense of freedom to walk down the hall to introduce a client to a counselor or a tutor or to refer one of the “littles” to The LEAF Project for summer work.
“We’re all, in essence, working with a lot of the same families. So, his vision of this being a one-stop for a lot of families is coming true,” she said.
The move comes as Big Brothers Big Sisters looks to find ways to grow its programs over a territory that includes Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Lebanon and Lancaster counties.
“We grow within our resources so we want to make sure we can provide the same amount of support and the same quality program to everyone who comes on,” George said.
The past year saw the start of the Bigs in Blue program that paired students at Wilson Middle School with members of the Carlisle Police Department. The relationships that started at the school have now branched out into community-based programs or to a sports buddy program, George said.
“Once they get to know each other, once they develop a solid relationship, we have the ability to expand those relationships,” she said.
George would like to launch a similar program, Beyond School Walls, in which a company interested in youth mentoring sponsors a program in which employees are matched to young people, usually middle or high school students. The students are taken to the work place where they have the opportunity to be mentored for about an hour every few weeks.
The program shows them the culture of work, and can open the doors for career paths they may not have considered previously.
“For many young people, they don’t see the opportunities or they don’t see the possibility and you have to show them,” George said.
As with other nonprofits, fundraising can be a challenge for Big Brothers Big Sisters. It takes about $1,500 to maintain a match at a level the organization deems appropriate.
That’s where fundraisers like Bowl for Kids Sake come into play. As the agency’s largest fundraiser, the event brings in about $150,000 a year to support the program across five counties.
The event has also inspired a spin-off among the senior set. Helen Milliron dreamed up a Wii bowling tournament fundraiser at the Church of God home, George said. The tournament exceeded expectations by raising $7,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, George said.
It didn’t end there.
George and Milliron took the show on the road to make presentations to other facilities, hoping to bring them on board to host a tournament. A resulting fundraiser at the Sarah A. Todd Memorial Home brought in $700 while this year’s edition of the tournament at Church of God home brought in $6,000 and counting, George said.
“It really gave those people at the Church of God a connectedness to the community and a connectedness to helping kids,” she said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters also needs volunteers to mentor children. Mentors are supported by the staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters so they never need to feel overwhelmed about the task of mentoring, George said.
“In the grand scheme of things, we always need males to step up,” George said, adding that she doesn’t mean to discount female volunteers.
The organization asks for a one-year commitment, but the average length for a match is two and a half years though it’s not unusual to hear of a match that lasts 5 or 6 years. The longest match in Carlisle has been going on for 11 years so the student will soon be graduating out of the program but not out of the relationship.
“If you’re together 11 years, that’s family,” George said. “We hear that all the time. When the kids get to those ages, then it’s just legit family forever.”