Many adults go their entire lives without experiencing the love one has for a younger sibling. Other children spend much of their youth wishing for the protection only an older sibling could provide. Across Long Island, this wish is coming true.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Long Island (BBBSLI) provides the opportunity to reimagine a sibling relationship. Since 1977, the organization has matched adult volunteers — “Bigs” — with children ages 7 to 16 — “Littles” — who could benefit from the additional guidance and support of an outside mentor. Its mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that “ignite the power and promise of youth,” according to the group.
“BBBSLI continues to make a positive impact throughout Long Island,” said the Islandia-based group’s CEO, Mark Cox.
The relationships formed through the work of this private, nonsectarian not-for-profit are as nuanced as any other sibling relationship. There are a variety of programs that help the children’s families, and the volunteers find the right match for them.
The Sibling Support program matches children who are the siblings of a special needs child with a mentor who will be able to give them the time and attention that their parents may not always be able to. The High School Bigs program, where younger elementary-aged “Littles” are matched with high-school-aged “Bigs,” helps the younger student to gain confidence and teaches the young adult valuable leadership skills. But, no matter the program, its success depends on consistency in the relationships.
Annually, BBBSLI “Bigs” spend more than 25,000 hours with their “Littles.” And, of all the organization’s current matches, 20 percent have been paired for more than five years.
In 1997, in order to increase service to Long island children and their families, the organization expanded to create the Donation Center. Six days a week, BBBSLI sends out a fleet of trucks across Long Island to pick up gently used items. In partnership with SAVERS stores, these donations are turned into much-needed funds, of which 100 percent supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island.
“I am always inspired by the work that is going on at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island as they work to foster the next generation of leaders in government, business, the arts and science,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We are encouraging anyone who can spare a few hours a month to strongly consider getting involved and help make a real difference in a child’s life.”
A list of acceptable donation items, information regarding scheduling a pick up, and instructions on how to become a “Big” can be found on its websitebbbsli.org/donation-center