Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine received a generous $33,000 grant from the Unity Foundation that will enhance and expand its one-to-one youth mentoring services in Penobscot and Northern Waldo counties. The
funding will provide support to its long-standing mentoring programs in the region, and more than triple the capacity to serve an additional 100 children in 2022.
Executive Director of BBBS of Mid-Maine Gwendolyn Hudson said the Unity Foundation grant comes at an important time.
“Big Brother and Big Sister mentors provide social and emotional development that is needed to help build resilience and support children’s mental health and well-being,” Hudson said, in a BBBS news release. “We are grateful that the Unity Foundation has chosen to stand up with youth during a very critical time.”
Unity Foundation Chair and CEO Larry Sterrs said the partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters is consistent with Unity Foundation’s mission of investing in building the capacity of non-profits that serve Maine, which was started almost 22 years ago by longtime Unity residents, Bert and Coral Clifford.
“For decades, the Cliffords used their success in local business to quietly support community non-profits, generally with an eye toward strengthening organizations so that they could meet their mission,” Sterrs said. “Supporting local youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s proven mentoring programs is a perfect fit with the Cliffords’ vision and the Foundation’s mission, as we help more kids by providing healthy, supportive relationships. Defending every child’s potential is an important investment in our future.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters has successfully served hundreds of youth in Penobscot and Northern Waldo counties for more than 50 years through two national mentoring service models, according to the release. Community-based mentoring pairs caring, responsible adults in the community one-to-one with local youth facing adversity. BBBSMM school and site-based programs match elementary youth with high school and college students, who meet weekly at a school or partnering youth organization.
BBBSMM partner programs are currently run at Leonard Middle School, Lewis Libby, Old Town Elementary, and the Old Town YMCA through Black Bear Mentors at the University of Maine at Orono. With the support of Unity Foundation funding, the agency plans to reopen the programs held at the Bangor Boys and Girls Club, supported by Bigs from Husson College, as well as programs at Smith and Wagner Schools in Winterport, supported by Bigs from Hampden Academy.
The Unity Foundation grant will also fund hiring a new program manager at the agency’s Bangor location. This individual will be responsible for recruiting, screening, training, matching and supporting current and new matches.
Grant funding is additionally earmarked to provide literacy materials for all BBBS of Mid-Maine programs throughout eastern, coastal and central Maine.
Mae Slevinsky, BBBSMM program supervisor, said funding will be used to purchase a variety of educational materials that support individual learning, problem solving and improved literacy skills.
“Bigs play an important role in encouraging reading and language-rich activities that support their Littles in their educational aspirations now, and in the future,” said Slevinsky. “Adding new tools to our mentoring programs builds more interest in learning.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s mentoring programs pair children, ages 5-14 (Littles), with caring, responsible role models (Bigs) in one-to-one relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. The program partners with parents, in conjunction with over 30 schools and hundreds of volunteers and generous partners in the community, to help children have higher aspirations, greater confidence, better relationships, avoid risky behaviors and achieve greater educational success.