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Viewpoint: Mentorships are still needed during COVID

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By Tom Thunstorm
Guest Columnist

Tom Thunstorm | PHOTO

For nearly 60 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware (BBBS) has served thousands of kids.  As part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, we are blessed with our federation’s 100-year legacy of helping ignite the power and promise of youth. We achieve this by developing one-to-one mentoring relationships between adults (Bigs) and children ages 7 to 17 (Littles). We currently have programs in all three counties of Delaware, which happen during the school day or outside of it.

I joined BBBS in June when COVID-19 was wreaking havoc throughout our disadvantaged communities and shortly after my predecessor had passed away after a lengthy illness. I have been blessed that my staff has been resilient and creative and felt empowered to help our mentors and kids through the pandemic.

Mentoring these days happens virtually – by Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Duo, or really any technological means possible. While that limits the in-person interaction that is ideal, it has definitely driven some creative ideas. Game nights, shared cooking experiences, watch parties via Netflix, tours of museums around the world, and playing video games online have become some of the creative workarounds. Despite the pandemic, the gift of technology has provided us the ability to pivot and work through the challenges as best as we can. I appreciate the presence of my staff and our mentors in supporting kids during this time.

I am also appreciative of the support of our donors – from individuals to charitable foundations to corporations, who all have provided us needed financial support – as well as our partnership with the United Way of Delaware. Our Board of Directors’ support and championing of our mission at their places of businesses is greatly appreciated. Thank you to all of you!

Even with our corporate and volunteer partners, we are still in need of additional mentors. January is National Mentoring Month, which provides us a great opportunity to spread the word about the importance of mentoring and being present in the life of a boy or girl that could use some extra support. We currently have 150 Littles waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister throughout our state, 100 of whom are in New Castle County. We especially could use some adult men as new mentors; the vast majority of our waitlist consists of boys. If you’d like to help, email info@bbbsde.org, check out our website (bbbsde.org), or call 302.998.3577 for more information.

We provide you training, support, and continual guidance as you become a Big Brother or Big Sister. We just ask for your time and presence to make it work.

An example of how you make a difference comes from a young girl in Kent County who joined our program at age nine. In their first meeting, the girl’s Big Sister asked what she wanted to do that day. For that girl, that one statement changed everything and empowered her since she had never been asked before what she likes to do. She developed confidence, improved her self-esteem, and eventually graduated from high school and is now attending Del Tech. She hopes to become a Big Sister once she is done with her studies.

Helping provide opportunity to those who are at-risk requires all of us working together in some way. At BBBS, we’re giving presence, stability, and a trusted mentor to at-risk kids throughout our state. In doing this, we are unlocking the power and promise of all kids. It’s my hope you’ll join us or support us in helping kids succeed.

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