GREENFIELD, MA – “Yes, .5K – 546 yards, it’s the race for everyone” said Development Director Ericka Almeida about the upcoming BIGGEST Little Road Race to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County.
Thursday July 25th from 6-9pm, Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield will be the site of the first annual BIGGEST Little Road Race a .5K eat and run (or walk) event. The 546 yard race will feature an Adams Donut stop, a Hillside Pizza Slice stop at the mid-way point and finish inside the Yankee Candle Village Store where Brick and Feather Brewery will be pouring or for those who prefer Ben and Jerry’s will be scooping. Yankee Candle will also be offering participants a 30% discount on most store items during the event (some restrictions apply).
“We love the irony of this race. It’s all inclusive, we want everyone to be able to participate” said Almeida. “It’s a win all around. You get to support a worthy non-profit, eat local and shop local!”
Tickets for the event are just $25/per person and $15 for children 12 and under. For $30 participants can skip the run and have their Adams Donut, Hillside Pizza & Brick and Feather Beer/Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream served to them in the lounge area located along the race route.
Tickets and information are available through the Big Brothers Big Sisters website http://www.bbbs-fc.org or via phone 413 772 0915.
Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs change the lives of children. Statistics show that children who are mentored are less likely to begin illegal drug use, are more successful academically and have better peer and family relationships. Mentoring works.
Children are not excluded on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, gender, marital status of parent, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or disability; and volunteer mentors are not excluded on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or disability.
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 www.bbbs-fc.org.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017, The Greenfield Recorder
Back to school has a special feeling for nearly everyone I know, especially people who work with children. Here at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County it means tender reunions at our school-based programs, watching high school seniors reconnect with 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds who missed them terribly all summer. It means community Bigs and Littles getting back to routines and regular outings together after school or on weekends. It means making sure we have 30 pumpkins for our most popular Big/Little match activity in October.
And all this autumnal activity revolves around school, particularly the local public-school calendar, as one of the most essential parts of a child’s world. Our job as mentors and as professionals who support mentors, is to foster a safe and secure environment around the edges of school so children can be ready and able to learn. I firmly believe this job isn’t restricted to “official” mentors like our Bigs, or just to teachers and educators, but is the responsibility of every adult that comes into contact with children.
According to the national organization America’s Promise Alliance, “students with support from adults in school are 25 percent less likely to leave school. Students are more likely to attend school every day, achieve academic and social success, and graduate on time when they have meaningful relationships with staff and teachers.” Additionally, America’s Promise’s policy recommendations include the recommendation that educators and policy makers “create evidence-based plans to improve low graduation rate high schools. States and school districts should adopt evidence-based practices, including implementing early warning systems to identify and support students who are off track based on their attendance, behavior, and course performance records, making social and emotional learning a part of the curriculum, and providing students with high-quality postsecondary education and workforce engagement opportunities.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is an evidence-based model that works right here in Franklin County. We have results. In June, I was excited to “run the numbers” based on the results of the surveys we administer to our matches each year. We do this in part because Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County is a proud United Way of Franklin County Partner Agency under the area of education, and because we also report academic outcomes for the Boston-based Mass Mentoring Partnership. But it is also personally satisfying to see how the hard work of our staff and mentors is solidified in statistical form. And, because I like math, and I like science!
One of our yearly objectives is that our Little Brothers and Sisters will demonstrate improvement in attitude toward school as a result of their relationship with their Big. Our 2017 local surveys revealed that 55 percent of our matched youth showed this improved attitude toward school. We also saw other academic gains: 69 percent showed increased academic performance, 66 percent showed increased classroom participation, 59 percent had improved classroom behavior and 58 percent showed improved school preparedness. Additionally, local matched children show gains in social and emotional learning: 87 percent of matched youth have better self-confidence, 76 percent are better able to express their feelings, 71 percent show improved relationships with peers.
Mentoring works, but it is also cost-effective. A study published by Wilder Research shows that for every dollar invested in effective mentoring programs, like BBBSFC, there is a return of $2.72. That return comes from projected increases in lifetime earnings by giving youth facing adversity in their lives a guiding hand and view to opportunities. It means they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Young people with Bigs are more likely to stay in school, more prepared for the workforce and able to engage in positive social relationships. These mentoring relationships support children and strengthen our communities for very little cost.
Back to school holds more meaning for me, since it is a time to reset the expectations I have for myself as an adult in the world and when I get to witness reconnections between children and mentors — Littles and Bigs who may have been strangers just a year ago. I see delight and adoration in the eyes of a little sister holding her Bigs’ hand as they talk about their summers. I see a big brother and his new Little excited to march in the Franklin County Fair Parade in their matching T-shirts, throwing candy to the parade spectators. I see potential and joy, and I know from the science that it is so much more. Enjoy the new year.
Danielle Letourneau-Therrien is the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County.
Monday, September 11, 2017, The Greenfield Recorder
“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that is close to my heart, not only because of the loving inclusive community connotations, but because my family has experienced it firsthand.
Being a sole parent was not something I had planned nor expected, but when my circumstances suddenly changed, I realized that I needed to become aware of all the resources that were available to me and my children. I strived to be the best parent I could be, and truly desired that my children would have all their needs met and reach their highest potential. These were things I feared I could not do alone.
I looked into Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County when my son, Jack, expressed dissatisfaction with being outnumbered in our home by females (me, his younger sister, even our cat, “Izzy”). This comment validated what was already on my radar; his need for positive male role models.
After a thorough intake conversation with the case manager from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, which included getting to know all of my son’s interests, personality traits and hobbies, he was matched at one of their two site-based programs with a junior at Deerfield Academy, a student named Miles.
Miles is a respectful, driven student who shared many of Jack’s interests such as basketball, swimming and Pokémon. After only a few weeks of the program, I could see Jack’s excitement peak as Friday approached and he was able to see his “Big.” He specifically mentioned how much he enjoyed playing basketball and swimming on campus.
His two years with Miles boosted my son’s confidence and allowed him to take risks he might not have normally taken in trying new activities. He also learned, from someone other than his mother, the values of striving academically. Miles has since graduated from Deerfield and Jack is in line to be matched again, and I am confident that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County will continue to be a positive experience for him.
Lilyana, my daughter, was so eager to turn 6 so she too could have a “Big” and has since completed one year with Ally, also from Deerfield Academy. It has already improved her confidence and helped with her social anxiety. She has specifically mentioned how much she has enjoyed doing activities on campus such as swimming and painting her nails.
For me, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County has given me a few hours to recharge and continue to tackle the hardest job I have ever had, parenting.
To say I am grateful to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County would not even begin to express my emotions. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County strives to see the individual needs of each child and meet them with an appropriately matched mentors. It has contributed in large ways to the success of my family and I would highly recommend it to other families as well.
Christina Jette of Turners Falls is mother to “Littles” Jack and Lilyana.
“Without you there is no us.” No statement rings truer for us at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County. The important work we do, of helping children reach their highest potential, comes with fiscal responsibility.
Recent data has shown that empowering youth-adult mentoring relationships created and supported by programs like those of Big Brothers Big Sisters, strengthen our community. For every dollar invested in effective mentoring there is a return of $2.72, which includes dollars saved through reduced juvenile delinquency and crime, improved school attendance, higher high school graduation rates and lowered risk of youth being involved in risky behavior, ie: drugs, alcohol and tobacco use.
Data is very powerful, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the outcomes our agency sees every year. We see children who have faced adversity — some of which you and I can only imagine — who now feel safe and supported by their adult mentor. We see children who have greater self-confidence knowing that they have a caring relationship with an adult who can help them navigate life’s challenges. We see smiles where there have been tears. These children are the foundation of our community. They are our future voters, employees, neighbors and caregivers. They are future mentors.
In order to make the highest-quality mentoring matches, we employ trained professional staff, who are able to work closely in supporting the families and volunteers we work with. Nearly all of our budget is funneled directly back into our programming through staff education. Our staff is responsible for maintaining the highest level of safety for the children in our programs, this is done through volunteer interviews, background checks and consistent monitoring of the match. The importance of preparation and knowledge in making, maintaining and supporting mentoring relationships is the key to our success.
We feel your love, Franklin County. Through your generosity we’ve been changing children’s lives for the better, often forever — for 50 years. That is 50 years of being a 100 percent donor-supported nonprofit mentoring agency. That’s 50 years of you believing in our mission. Thank you!
Cheers to our partnership, and the next 50 years of making futures brighter.
Ericka Almeida is the marketing and development coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County.
Have you ever stood at the edge of a lake or river, thrown a pebble with just the right angle and force into the water, and watched it skip across the surface? I can close my eyes and picture it now, that beautiful pattern in the water and the satisfaction of watching the ripple effect of one tiny stone, and one seemingly small action. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we get to see that kind of impact frequently, as our mentoring programs have a powerful effect on young people, their mentors, their families, and the larger community. And just like with skipping stones, the ripple sometimes goes so far, it blows us all away.
This is what happened with Big Brother Jason Jarvis. Jason grew up in Buckland and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as a kid. He was a Little Brother matched with a student at Deerfield Academy, Justin, and they spent Friday nights together having fun on the DA campus. Jason recalls that Justin’s friendship and consistent, one-on-one attention created an important support system for him. Their match officially ended when Justin went off to college, but they stayed in touch. Jason went on to graduate from Franklin County Technical School, find a job he loves as an electrician, and join the U.S. Army National Guard. He bought his own home at age 22 and is deeply involved in his community, volunteering at his church, and as a firefighter in Shelburne Falls. Jason and his Big Brother Justin stayed in contact throughout all these years, and their bond remains strong, though Justin now lives in the Boston area. When he was 23, Jason decided it was time for him to become a Big Brother himself, and in October 2015 he was matched with Chris, a 6-year old boy who lives in Greenfield with his great-grandmother, Judy. Jason and Chris became instant buddies, spending countless hours together fishing, Chris’ favorite activity. Jason also wanted to introduce Chris to all kinds of new activities and adventures, so they went hiking and apple-picking, to a locomotive show at the Big E and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Jason taught Chris how to ski at Berkshire East, and how to change a tire, after they got a flat on their way home from an outing. Chris adores Jason, calling him “the nicest guy I ever met!” Judy sings Jason’s praises too, and is so grateful for his dedication to her great-grandson.
One year after being matched with Chris, Jason learned his Army unit was going to be deployed. He thoughtfully discussed this with us at Big Brothers Big Sisters and with Judy, and decided to find a volunteer who could step in for him while he is away. He did not want Chris to be without a Big Brother for so long, and he knew Chris would be worried about him during the deployment and would likely need some extra support. Jason found a wonderful solution in Bob Carmody, a friend and mentor figure for Jason who was happy to help out. Bob is a father of three grown children, a police officer, and an avid outdoorsman. After Jason, Bob and Chris went fishing a few times together, everyone decided that Bob would be perfect to step in as Chris’ new Big Brother. Bob talked it over with his wife and children, went through the Big Brothers Big Sisters application process, and Judy happily approved the new match. At Jason’s send-off party before his deployment, Chris and Judy were there, Bob and his family were there, and Justin made a surprise appearance too! Jason was able to introduce his Big Brother from years ago to his own Little Brother, and the image of all three standing together warms my heart and makes me grateful beyond measure.
I am grateful to Justin for being the first pebble skipping into the water, a high school student who volunteered every Friday evening for a year and half, offering his time and friendship to a child in his community. Little did he know that this child would pay it forward years later, and would do so with such heart and commitment to his own mentee. Now that Bob has stepped up to keep the momentum going, we know that Chris continues to be cared for and supported. Thank you Justin, Jason and Bob!
We also thank Judy for being the solid and loving foundation for Chris at home, and Chris for going with the flow and being a fantastic Little Brother! In another heartwarming turn, Chris’s entire class at Newton Elementary School created a care package with letters from each student to send to Jason overseas. We all send our gratitude and good wishes to Jason for a safe journey ahead. When he returns from deployment next year, we know that Jason, Bob and Chris will have lots of fun on fishing expeditions together, and maybe they’ll even toss some stones into the water, and see how far they go…
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, we have been making high-quality, long-lasting mentoring matches for 50 years, and we thank all our Bigs and Littles, both past and present! You show us that one seemingly small act can have a BIG ripple effect, and we can’t wait to see what happens next?
Jessie Cooley has worked in the Mentoring field for over a decade.
There is a lot going on in the world right now, and a lot of people are searching and engaged, looking for ways to give back, ways to find meaning. It feels good, but it is also daunting. One could spend all their free time worrying about hunger, drug and alcohol addiction, wounded or homeless veterans, children and families who are homeless or need food and stability. It can be overwhelming to even know where to start, how to begin to make change.
Start at home. Franklin County and the North Quabbin area is one of most beautiful parts of America, complete with amazing rivers, beautiful hills, hiking, skiing (both kinds!), the magnificent Quabbin, and several prestigious centers of academia, complete with ivy-covered architecture. We have farms, county fairs and fresh food. I saw a real-life bald eagle just the other day. It was amazing. I love it here. But, among this beauty we also have poverty. Franklin County and the North Quabbin region continue to experience extremely high levels of poverty, especially compared to other parts of Massachusetts. For example, Greenfield, the county seat and three times as populous as any of its neighbors, has a poverty rate of just over 26%, compared to 15% state-wide, according to 2013 census data. The numbers for children are even more striking; 31 % of children in Greenfield live in poverty, compared to 16% of children across Massachusetts. Last year, 73% of the 167 children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County were living either at, near, or below poverty, and recently we have seen an increase in the number of children with an incarcerated parent, or who have witnessed drug or alcohol addiction at home. Our magnificent region covers over 800 square miles, yet we have vast areas where one cannot reach public transportation, and where it is easier to access drugs than it is to access the internet. We are right here in the most rural and impoverished part of the state, and children bear the brunt of it.
When you do not know how to make sense in the world, roll up your sleeves and join your neighbors by volunteering for a United Way Day of Action, or put on your boots and wade in for the Source to Sea Cleanup of those spectacular rivers, or, if you have the means, write a check to the Food Bank or the Women’s Fund or NELCWIT or Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County. Our local programs require $250,000 a year to keep our doors open, and this funding is provided locally, by our own community. Though we are part of the large 100-plus year-old network of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the support we get from that affiliation is not financial. We rely on United Way, a few other grants, and by local individuals and local business partners. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County saw a 15% increase in the number of Big/Little matches we were able to support from 2015 – 2016, despite about $50,000 less in revenue from the previous year. Even though we are an organization reliant on volunteers, it is essential that those volunteers and the children and families they are associated with are supported by paid trained professionals. For every dollar invested in effective mentoring programs like BBBS, there is a return of $2.72, including projected increases in lifetime earnings gained by leading at-risk youth down the path to become productive adult citizens, as well as dollars saved through reduced juvenile delinquency and crime, improved school attendance, higher high school graduation rates, along with the lowered risk of youth involvement in risky behaviors such as drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
You can also become a mentor. Become a “Big” to a child who needs one. We know that children with mentors are better able to navigate the negative risk factors that we see. In fact, our data shows that mentored children are less likely than their peers to use drugs, to begin using alcohol, and they do better in school. They have better relationships with their parents, with teachers and with their friends.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County is celebrating 50 years in 2017! Our theory of change is that matching children facing adversity with screened and supported, caring Bigs can create better futures for the children involved, including, but not limited to, better relationships, decreased likelihood of risky behaviors, and an improved attitude towards school. The greatness of the relationship is created by the joy each pair finds in their shared activities, and is made stronger by the careful, ongoing, professional support we offer here locally, at our office. This leads to measurable change where the futures of Littles are improved and each child has a greater chance of success in becoming a caring, engaged citizen, reaching their highest potential in a safer and secure world. And you can do that right here, in your neighborhood, where you can see eagles. You can make change. This is how we work together for a better world.
Danielle Letourneau-Therrien is the Executive Director of 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.