Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County awarded

$30,000 grant from Mass Mentoring Partnership 

Greenfield, MA– Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County (BBBSFC) has been awarded a $30,000 Mentoring Matching Grant through Mass Mentoring Partnership of Boston, MA. The grant funding followed the signing of the FY19 Massachusetts budget which included a $750,000 Mentoring Matching Grants line item. This line items serves as the only state funding dedicated to mentoring. In Franklin County, this award will be used to support mentoring programs & match activities, recruitment of new mentors & mentees, and other general operating costs for the agency. This grant is especially important as BBBSFC is preparing to expand their mentoring programs through a pilot afterschool program in Greenfield. “Having the Mentoring Matching Grants line item fully funded is a testament to the impact that mentoring has on communities here in the Commonwealth” said Jennifer Webster, Executive Director of BBBSFC.


Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) is fueling the movement to expand empowering youth-adult relationships to meet the needs of communities across Massachusetts. We work with mentoring programs and youth development organizations to assess programmatic needs and organizational capacity to provide customized strategies that strengthen youth, families, and communities.


BBBSFC serves children in all areas of Franklin County and North Quabbin area. Mentors are carefully screened to ensure safety and longevity in the match. Mentors and mentees continue to receive support throughout their mentoring relationship through our professional and dedicated case managers.   If you or someone you know may be interested in learning more about becoming a mentor, please contact Emma Olson at BBBSFC 413-772-0915 or online

My Turn

(July, 2015) Greenfield Recorder

I want to discuss three commonly held beliefs about smoking, drugs and alcohol. One is that smoking, drinking and drug use is rampant among teens and young adults. A second is that young people are going to drink, smoke and use drugs anyway, so attempts by governments and adults to stop them are futile. And the last assumption is that concentrating on smoking at a time when we are facing an unprecedented local opioid crisis, is a waste of time. Addressing these beliefs is timely right now, in light of recent local debates about restricting the sale of tobacco to 18, 19 & 20 year olds.

In my role as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, I have the privilege of participating in collaborations with other local agencies that are doing good prevention work. We are fortunate to have groups like the Communities That Care Coalition (CTC), whose mission is to bring Franklin County and North Quabbin schools, parents, youth and the community together to promote protective factors, reduce risk factors, prevent substance use and other risky behaviors, and improve young people’s ability to reach their full potential and thrive. They also conduct the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, which has been administered to students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in area schools every 3 years since 2003, asking local students about substance use, violence, and other risky behaviors. Programs like ours at Big Brothers Big Sisters have a duty to look at research like this, in order to gauge whether or not our programs are being effective.

First let’s look at national trends involving younger teens and cigarettes. Interestingly, the rate of past-month cigarette use among 12- to 17-year-olds has declined from 2002 and 2013, from 13% to 5.6%. This from a 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Now, zoom in on our own area via that Prevention Needs Assessment Survey. In the 2012 grade 12 surveys, the kids in that age group of “around 18”; cigarette past-month smoking is down, from 24% of those surveyed in 2003, to 20% in 2012 (and lifetime cigarette use went down from 56% to 38.1%). Among these local high school seniors, alcohol use is also down, as is use of marijuana.

These facts are telling as to how many kids are actually using drugs, alcohol and, to my point, tobacco. Saying that “most kids do it anyway” is quite simply not true, according to 12 years of local data. This same local survey also saw an improvement in school climate, another important contributor to healthy behaviors. I cannot wait to see the 2015 data, which CTC will release to the public in October.

So, why focus on smoking? According to a 1998 national survey in the Journal of Substance Abuse, “Early onset smoking was a significant predictor of lifetime drinking and the subsequent development of lifetime alcohol abuse and dependence, a relationship that generally remained consistent for males, females, whites and blacks. Early onset smoking was significantly associated with more excessive alcohol consumption and more severe alcohol use disorders relative to late onset smokers and nonsmokers.”

Related state-wide information was just released on Monday, June 22nd.  The Governor’s Opioid Working Group Recommendations highlight in Finding 2 that “40% of kids who begin drinking at age 15 will become alcoholics, only 7% of those who begin drinking at age 21 will.”

So, evidence shows that youth who delay that first use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs are less likely to become addicted, and evidence shows early onset of smoking is a predictor of lifelong alcohol dependency.

All of this gets to the heart of what we are trying to do here at BBBS. We partner with parents/guardians, volunteers and others in the community and hold ourselves accountable for each child in our program achieving: Higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships, avoidance of risky behaviors and educational success.

The youth-serving community, CTC, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, as well as the Opioid Task Force, know that what we are doing IS working. Most young people are NOT using tobacco, alcohol and drugs. I commend the towns of Montague and Greenfield for joining over 50 other Massachusetts communities in changing the age of the sale of tobacco to 21. It is a small step to help us continue to keep kids safe and healthy for as long as possible. Let’s not go backwards.

Danielle Letourneau-Therrien

Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County

Our agency is based in Greenfield and serves all of Franklin County plus the North Quabbin towns of Athol, Royalston, Petersham and Phillipston.

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