Big Brother Chris Paradis, left, and his Little Brother Evan Jones enjoy playing cribbage, watching movies and, shown here two years ago, shooting pool. Chris and Evan were matched three years ago as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, which is recruiting adults, college and high school students to become “Bigs” to kids waiting to be matched. Contributed

AUBURN — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine (BBBSMM) has kicked off 2021 with a recruitment effort to match 30 waiting “Littles” with adult mentors, and train another 70 college and high school students to serve as “Virtual Bigs” to mentor area youth, with hopes of returning to in-person programming this year.

The campaign, “One to One in 2021,” is part of National Mentoring Month, a time dedicated to recognizing the agency’s current Bigs, and share their stories to help recruit new mentors from throughout midcoast, eastern and central Maine.

Community-based matches meet a few hours each week either virtually or in person following COVID-19 safety guidelines. School-based matches are communicating via the agency’s online virtual messaging program, “MentorNet,” and keeping in touch through penpal writing, with hopes of returning to one-hour weekly meetings at after-school programs when it is safe.

Both community and school/site-based Bigs are screened, trained, matched and supported by professional program staff. All volunteers commit to mentoring a child for a minimum of one year, which supports the development of stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

Big Brother Chris Paradis, who has a busy personal and professional life, says mentoring is about finding time for things that matter most.

“This experience has been an eye opener and has made me realize the importance of giving back,” Paradis said about his three-year friendship with Little Brother Evan Jones, who is now 16. “It’s pretty powerful to be able to watch someone grow, mature and know you are making a difference in their lives.”

BBBSMM Executive Director Gwendolyn Hudson said there has never been a more critical time for volunteers to become Big Brothers and Big Sisters. “As we all do our part to isolate for the health of our community, the connection between Bigs and Littles is more important than ever,” Hudson said. Community Bigs, she said, are finding creative ways to stay connected through virtual cooking classes, online games and arts and crafts and doing outside activities together.

MentorNet, the agency’s new online communication program, is making it safe and easy for college and high school Bigs to stay connected with local youth.

“The New Year is a great time to make a personal commitment to give back in your community. All you need is a desire to make a difference by igniting a child’s greatest potential,” Hudson said. “Many people think they don’t have the time or are not sure if they would be a good mentor,” Hudson said. “Bigs tell us all the time that spending a few hours just being a friend not only significantly impacts their Little’s life, but changes their own for the better. It is very rewarding.”

Interested volunteers can learn more about local Littles waiting and how to become a mentor by calling 207-236-BBBS or emailing [email protected] Additional information can be found at bbbsmidmaine.org. To enroll a child, become a Big, donate or learn more about volunteering, call 207-236-2227.


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