Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City calls for community members to make an impact in the lives of children.
When Ross Dickneite looked into volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Jefferson City more than a year ago, he wasn’t exactly sure what he was signing up for. The Freeburg, Missouri native knew he wanted to giveback and was encouraged by others around him to pay it forward. This inspired him to jump in with both feet.
“People are often hesitant to be a mentor, but if they just say yes, these kids are only looking for a consistent person in their life who cares. Just give it a chance.”—Lee Knernschield
Ross serves in the BBBS community-based program that matches adult volunteers (bigs) with children (littles) needing positive support and mentorship. The matches meet for a few hours a couple of times a month to hang out, do activities together, and learn from each other. Ross is matched with Aiden, a 6th grader, and they’ve come up with a whole list of adventures to do together.
“I’m always happy to give him new experiences,” Ross says. “We go geocaching or go eat and talk. We even baked banana bread at my house, and he FaceTimed his mom because he was so excited!”
For Ross, he’s learned a lot about being a big in the last year. He’s also gained a valuable perspective on the support kids need to reach their full potential and some of the obstacles they are dealing with along the way.
“For me, I come from a household with two parents and a lot of support. The real need for Aiden is support. I could never fathom his experiences in his 11 years of life at this point,” Ross says.
BBBS offers that support both in the community-based program and through school mentoring. There are currently 120 matches in the program, but there are still many kids waiting to be matched. The need for bigs, especially males, keeps growing. While people are sometimes reluctant to volunteer, BBBS Executive Director Lee Knernschield says she hopes people can recognize how simple it is to say yes and how life-changing it can be.
“People are often hesitant to be a mentor, but if they just say yes, these kids are only looking for a consistent person in their life who cares. Just give it a chance. Don’t be afraid to say yes,” Lee says. “It’s a perfect New Year’s resolution, and what a great way to start your year by becoming a big.”
BBBS makes it a simple and seamless process for those who say yes. You can choose to volunteer for the program or mentor during school hours only, which may work better for busy professionals or retirees. For state workers, employees are given one hour of paid leave per week for mentoring as part of the Missouri Mentoring Initiative. BBBS is also a sponsored program of the Jefferson City YMCA, which provides free YMCA memberships for littles in the community-based program. With their help, this allows matches to have an indoor recreation spot all year-round.
“You have no idea the difference a few hours can make… especially once you see they are just seeking someone to confide in and that they can trust.”—Ross Dickneite
In addition to being a big, there are other opportunities throughout the year to support BBBS, including giving to the United Way of Central Missouri as BBBS is a United Way recipient. BBBS is also in need of some extra hands at its annual fundraisers, which includes a chili cook-off, jingle dash, and a golf tournament. These funds go directly to supporting matches like Aiden and Ross.
“You have no idea the difference a few hours can make, the impact your presence can make, especially once you see they are just seeking someone to confide in and that they can trust,” Ross says.
Ross’s biggest hope is that the trust and confidence building with Aiden will have positive impacts both in the short-term and the long-term. He plans to journey with him through it all, including teaching him the small things and cheering him on for the big things. He also hopes to one day see him graduate high school. For him, that would be the best gift of all.
If you would like to learn more about being a big and/or supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters in other meaningful ways, check out the BBBS website at bbbsjeffersoncity.org.