Looking for 100 Good Men: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast

Looking for 100 Good Men: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast

A local chapter of a national charity is already making a lifelong difference. But to expand their impact, they need a few good men… or 100 good men.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Sun Coast’s vision is for all children to achieve success in life. Their mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Big Brothers Big Sisters impacted the lives of 1,869 children in our community in 2016-17.  

The well-established organization has already found that 94% of their ‘Littles’ in the program have maintained or improved their relationships with peers, families and other adults and 92% have maintained or improved their sense of future. Great success already but, they have many more boys that need mentors.

Their goal is to find 100 new men to become a mentor, or a “Big”, for local youth in just 100 days with their “100 Men in 100 Days” campaign”.

We talked with one of their Bigs, a Community Board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters and fourth-generation Bradenton resident Stephen Boyes, on what he refers to as “the fun nonprofit” and what it means to be a Big. With a masters degree in social work and a background in local government, nonprofits, and mental health – currently serving as a mental health consultant for Manatee Community Action Agency’s Head Start program – Boyes has dedicated most of his life to advocating and caring for others. So we decided to find out why he chose to get involved with BBBS, and why he thinks you should too!

Sarasota Post: You’ve studied a lot of nonprofits. How and why did you get involved with BBBS?

Stephen Boyes: When you get your masters degree you have to do a big project at the end. Mine was an analysis of how to improve mentoring programs. After looking at the research I said, “Wow! Mentoring really works! Adults and kids both benefit greatly from a very small and consistent interaction with each other. After grad school I should be a mentor.” So as soon as I got out of grad school, I headed straight to my local BBBS and signed up. I was surprised at how simple it was.

SP: Did you have any male mentors in your life growing up? Who were they and what did they mean to your development?

SB: I’ve had many mentors as an adult but the men in my life growing up were essential. They held me accountable, they encouraged me, and they listened to me with interest and compassion as I tried to figure out who I wanted to become as a man. Some people think having a good dad is enough. I don’t think so! We need more than one good man in our lives. I’m forever thankful for my male mentors.

SP: What does being a “Big” mean to you?

SB: For me, being a Big means spending an hour a week with a child. That’s it. It doesn’t mean working wonders in a kid’s life. It doesn’t mean “saving them”, whatever that means. Being a Big means spending an hour a week with a kid. That’s it. Now, what you do during that hour is important, but the most important thing is just showing up. I tell people all the time that it’s okay to be bored with their Little! It’s true! Adults worry about entertaining kids. Don’t! Just be yourself. Tell stories. Go fishing. Ride bikes. Teach them stuff. But don’t worry about being fun and entertaining and cool. Kids don’t need more “coolness” in their life. They need more realness. So go be real and be yourself. It really boosts a child’s self-esteem if they know an adult wants to hang out with them. So go hang out with them.

SP: What does your ‘Little’ mean to you?

SB: People who garden will get this. My Little, to me, is like a garden. And I get to watch this really amazing garden grow. And I can hang out in the garden, and do cool things in the garden, and tend the garden, but no matter what, the garden is its own thing. I can’t control the garden. It will grow no matter what. And no matter how hard I try, some weeds will grow, and no matter how negligent I am, some flowers and fruit are going to grow, too. For me, it’s an honor to be in my Little’s life and watch him grow!

SP: What would you hope to provide or tell the youth of our community?

SB: This is, for many real reasons, the most important question of our age. What can we hope to tell the youth of our community? It’s simple: “You are loved.” You are loved! To the children of addict parents, let us say, “You are loved.” To the children raised in neighborhoods where street violence is real, let us say, “You are loved.” To the children who sleep in different homes from one week to the next, let us say, “You are loved.” To the children who’s fathers are gone, let us say, “You are loved.” To the children who are bullied and ostracized at school and who feel so left out that anger burns inside them, let us say, “We see you. We hear you. You are loved.” But also to the children who get ok grades and never get in trouble, and just skate by under everyone’s radar, let us say, “You are loved.” And to the quiet ones and the ones who are anxious and smart and awkward, let us say, “You are loved.” And to the children whose parents are too busy to tuck them in, or to be at their sports games, or to have pizza and board game night, let us say, “You are loved.”

Every child needs to hear they are loved. And some more than others.

Showing a kid that he or she is loved isn’t some hippy-dippy idea – it’s essential psychological formation. It used to be that young adults would prove to their communities that they were grown through a rite of passage or coming of age ritual. Modern society usually lacks these important milestones. And yet growing children still crave the acceptance and approval of the adults around them. Showing children that they are loved grounds them in the community.

SP: What would you say to encourage your peers and community leaders to take part in BBBS?

SB: What would I say to encourage people to get involved in BBBS? They’re already involved and loving it! Come join the party! BBBS is the fun nonprofit. 🙂

——

With any questions or to become a Big, call their toll-free number (855)-501-BIGS or head to www.bbbssun.org for more information.

Looking for 100 Good Men: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.

photos courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast

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2018-03-08