Big Brothers, Big Sisters celebrate 50 years of mentoring local children | News, Sports, Jobs

TR PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER Lynne Carroll, Director of Heart of Iowa Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS). The program, founded in 1972 by Lou Miller, celebrates 50 years of making a difference in the community by pairing volunteers with a child to nurture.

Sometimes one-on-one time with a mentor makes all the difference in a child’s life, and Heart of Iowa Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS) shows just how impactful it can be for 50 years.

Lynne Carroll, director of the local BBBS chapter, says the non-profit program aims to match a volunteer – a big one – with a child – a little one – who needs a positive role model. These big ones are meant to go through life with their little ones and hopefully have fun in the process. The help and advice from these volunteers can influence the little ones for years to come.

“All of our volunteers over the past 50 years have planted seeds in children who have blossomed in different ways. can hear, or we can hear later, how it impacted the kid and what decisions they made because of that mentor’s influence,” Caroll said.

According to Carroll, Lou Miller originally founded Big Brothers in 1972 because he recognized the need for a mentorship program to guide local boys through life in the Marshalltown area, so he and a few friends got together. grouped together to launch the program. From there it grew and in 1975, after the creation of Big Sisters, the two programs merged to form BBBS.

BBBS continued to grow over the years, relying primarily on volunteers before a director was eventually hired. Carroll is currently entering her 11th year as director and her 15th year with the program. She was previously a match support specialist, a position dedicated to matching large and small compatible.

Carroll credits the endless community support of Marshalltown residents for the longevity of BBBS.

“I would say as an agency itself, we’ve stood the test of time because the community has supported what’s happening here and seen the value in what mentorship really does for the kids of our community,” Carroll said.

BBBS volunteers are divided into two categories: school volunteers and community volunteers. School volunteers visit the child they mentor at school and must be at least 16 years old, while community mentors meet them outside of school and must be at least 18 years old. Once they’re paired up, there are tons of activities big and little kids can do together.

“They can cook or ride their bikes or go to the movies or sporting events, whatever. But probably the best advice we give to a community match is, “What do you already have that you do that you can just include a kid in?” “said Carroll. “Sometimes just sitting down and eating a meal together is a real treat for a child because they have this focused individual attention.”

Colin Schmit is a high school and high school student, and he visits his little one, Madden, a fifth-grader at Lenihan Intermediate School. Schmit has been extremely happy with his experiences in the program so far.

“It was awesome. (Madden) loves sports like me and you can tell he’s really excited, and it changes his whole day to have someone take the time to hang out with him. So it’s been great so far,” Schmit said.

Schmit plays basketball with Madden at Lenihan, but he also helps him with any problems he has on his math homework. Schmit would encourage everyone to do so, and he actively spoke to his group of friends about participating.

Two of BBBS’s community volunteers, Deb and Ken Harrelson, feel that they get as much benefit from the program as their 13-year-old Connor, whom they have known for three years. After their children all left home, there was a space in their hearts they sought to fill, and Deb felt there was no better way to do that than by giving back to the community.

“I know there are kids who don’t have a mom and dad, and I just thought we could find someone to go roller-skating with or do whatever they like to do. So that’s what led us to do (the program),” Deb said. “It’s been quite gratifying.”

After half a century, Carroll says the agency’s future is bright. The long-term goals remain the same: to continue to build relationships in the community and to continue to make a difference in the lives of local children.

“We want to build relationships here and not just by bringing our big and small together. It’s about building relationships in everything we do in this community,” Carroll said. “Relationships really connect us to a community that cares about us. You know that saying: “It takes a village? The Village of Marshalltown has been wonderful for 50 years, but we’re not done.

To celebrate the 50-year milestone, BBBS big and small will attend a Marshalltown High School basketball game on January 21, where they will be introduced and recognized for being part of the program. Carroll says it’s great for visibility and for making sure the community knows that BBBS is here to support local kids.

To volunteer with BBBS, complete an online application at HeartofIowaBigs.org or pick up a hard copy at their office located at 31 S. First St. BBBS requires three references and a background check for all volunteers.

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Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or

[email protected]

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