CUMBERLAND — Sometimes, putting a smile on a child’s face takes a community, and community support is something Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Alleghenies counts on to keep those smiles coming.
“A mentor can make a huge difference in the life of a child,” said Kimi-Scott McGreevy, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Alleghenies.
McGreevy is making efforts to increase community involvement and the recently revived lunch buddy program is bringing good results, she said.
The organization needs both funding and volunteers. The most recent fundraiser for the organization was Bowl for Kids’ Sake on Saturday at The Bowler in LaVale. Fifty-seven teams, 11 more than last year, participated.
“We’re definitely growing,” McGreevy said.
The event didn’t quite reach the organization’s $40,000 goal. Money is still trickling in though.
Pairing local businesses with schools in the lunch buddy program is something McGreevy hopes will help meet the need for mentors. The idea is to have the lunch buddy go to the school and have lunch with a child. Once the eating is done, the lunch buddy can talk to the child or help with homework. A business adopting a school means a pool of volunteers is available for children, McGreevy said.
The lunch buddy program also offers a good option for people interested in helping the program, but unsure of the time they can commit.
Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has 45 children matched with mentors, with 17 on the waiting list. That waiting list is sure to grow, McGreevy said, because once a match is made, there isn’t much lag time until a new child is added to the waiting list.
“We want to grow our programs; we have a tremendous need in this area for this kind of program,” McGreevy said at a recent meeting of Cumberland’s mayor and City Council.
It takes about $100,000 a year to keep the organization going. The local office is a member of the national organization, and actually pays thousands of dollars a year in dues and is required to pay for an independent audit for the local office. At the recent council meeting, McGreevy was requesting city block grant funding.
After hearing McGreevy explain the organization’s funding needs, Councilwoman Nicole Wagoner asked how much each match costs. McGreevy said she’d get the number to Wagoner.
Turns out, it costs about $1,000 a year per child — and that’s once the match is made, after a lengthy interview process and background check. For the first year of the match, there are regular meetings with all the parties. In addition, each quarter the organization tries to have an activity to bring all the matches together to create a feeling of community.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Alleghenies is too small of an organization to qualify for many grants and can’t, unlike many nonprofits, be reimbursed by Medicaid or other programs. There are many expenses that wouldn’t occur to people, McGreevy said, including secondary auto insurance liability policies on each Big Brother and Big Sister.
Contact Matthew Bieniek at firstname.lastname@example.org.