ST. LOUIS – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri launched its second annual campaign to recruit 90 men in 90 days to fulfill the need for volunteers to mentor young boys, particularly African-American youth. The campaign started Oct 1 and runs through the end of the year.
Linda Robinson, director of volunteer recruitment, noted, “Men are the hardest to come on board; this campaign is a push to recruit them. Out of our 700 kids, 80 percent are boys, and 75 percent are African-American.”
“Although it doesn’t really matter, we would like more African-American males to step up,” she said. “We would like the boys to see/be with a Big who looks like them and can help guide them with things they are going through because they can identify with some of those same things. But everyone is welcome.”
Recruiting efforts include lunch-and-learns with various businesses and nonprofit organizations including 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis; radio interviews with diverse Big Brothers panels; and print and online media enticements.
Big Brother Kittrel Brasselman said he wanted to make an impact on youth.
“They need mentors and guidance; a lot of youths don’t have that. They don’t have fathers in the household, so sometimes they look outside of the household. I want to bridge that gap and be a positive role model for a young person.
“A male always wants to have that father figure, whether he realizes it or not,” Brasselman said. “My 11-year-old Little plays soccer. He told his mom that all the other kids’ fathers are on the sideline watching them play and he wanted that, so I stepped into that role. I am that father figure on the sidelines, his No. 1 cheerleader. It is very important for a young man to see a positive role model so he can grow from that.”
Stephen Hill has similar reasons for becoming a Big.
“Youth between 15 and 25 seem to be causing a lot of problems because they don’t have good role models, don’t see success in their everyday lives, so they don’t know what it looks like and it’s really hard to achieve,” Hill said. “There is no reason for me not to spend four hours a month trying to influence someone to grow up, graduate high school, get a productive job in society, even if they don’t go to college; try and get them to go down the right path. When you think about some of the problems in society, there is a need for males to step into some leadership roles.”
Brasselman and Hill both get satisfaction from knowing they are making a difference in a boy’s life.
According to Hill, everyone wants to donate money but it is more meaningful to donate time.
“You get to see help happening, see the fruits of your labor. Having an 8-year-old around is something new, it’s fun, exciting. Aidan keeps me super busy. We go out, chop down trees, play Legos, and it brings out the inner child in me. We work on manners and listening, but we still have fun.”
“When my little brother is on the right track, doing good in school, sports, whatever he is doing, he puts his best foot forward and gives his 100 percent. That makes it rewarding when I see him succeed,” Brasselman said. “He interacts with my wife and children; they love each other. He loves being around the whole family idea.”
Former Little Dequale Frazier spoke on the difference having a Big in his life made.
“I was around 8 years old and my mom wanted me to have another mentor to help me better myself, coming from a single-family home. The introduction to my BB was a little nerve wracking, but it was exciting. We started clicking as soon as we met because of the questions he asked and the way we interacted.
“The older I got, the longer I knew him, our relationship got more in-depth,” Frazier explained. “Male bonding was very important. We would talk about things that actual brothers would talk about, do things I wouldn’t have done without him, meeting his wife, going to church with them.
“I am 22 years old now, but I still talk with him,” Frazier added. “He is always there for me. I called him the other day just to talk about some things.”
Littles are ages 5-17 and are matched with Bigs based on compatibility.
Hill said he and Aidan had things in common. “I got matched with Aidan; he’s adopted, I’m adopted, we have a lot to relate to,” Hill said.
Minimum commitment is one year, with four hours of companion time a month. For more information visit bbbsemo.org