Big Brothers aims to recruit 20 new mentors

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Executive director Beth Reitz passes the Big Brothers Big Sisters flag to Mayor Larry Henkelman to raise at the Ponoka Town Hall and honour Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in Ponoka.

Executive director Beth Reitz passes the Big Brothers Big Sisters flag to Mayor Larry Henkelman to raise at the Ponoka Town Hall and honour Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in Ponoka.

By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month and the Ponoka staff are marking it with some solid goals. They plan to recruit 20 new mentors in addition to the 40 already in place.

Morgen Chernick, the program director/case worker for BB/BS who helps match up mentors and children, says there are two ways a person can volunteer. “We have in-school mentoring and traditional, which is in the community.”

In-school mentoring is an hour of volunteering per week inside school buildings, and traditional is being in the community, interacting with your Little Brother/Sister.

“Companies like Servus Credit Union, ATB Financial, Royal Bank and Ponoka News allow their employees the time to go and mentor for that hour,” explained Chernick.

As the caseworker she gets to see the positive effect on the children.

“Teachers are commenting that their grades are improving,” is one area the feedback she receives.

“If only people could see what I see the kids are so excited to know that they will see their mentor at a certain time every week.”

On Sept. 14 BB/BS will hold a fundraising barbecue at the Ponoka Fire Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all the proceeds will go to the mentoring programs.

“Five dollars gets you a burger or hotdog, chips and a pop, and all the proceeds go to our mentoring programs and a chance to meet the BB/BS staff,” Chernick says.

Andrew Low, from John W. Low Agencies, has purchased the burgers for the barbecue from Sunken Bridge Meat Processing, which Chernick says will help the BB/BS program greatly. After the barbecue you can ask the staff questions about how to apply and what the process is like.

“We are all mentors,’ says Chernick. “People think it’s a lengthy and scary process but it’s relatively easy.”

Once you know you are ready to become a mentor, the first step is to get a security check through the RCMP. Chernick says safety for the mentors and the kids is important. They will give mentors special safety training and interview them to make sure to get the right matches. Mentoring starts at Grade 1 and goes all the way up to Grade 12 so you could find yourself mentoring someone who matches your interests.

Most volunteers find that an hour a week is easy to do considering how busy people can get. BB/BS will work around your schedule.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters’ office is situated inside the Ponoka Youth Centre and staff will be available to answer questions at the mass registration being held at the Kinsmen Community Centre on Sept 7, from 5 to 8 p.m.

QUICK FACTS

Thinking about becoming a mentor? Consider the benefits youth in the program gain:

• 91 per cent feel better about themselves.

• 65 per cent have improved self-confidence.

• 67 per cent have a better sense of right and wrong.

• 76 per cent show improved school grades.

• 80 per cent have a better school attendance record.

• 82 per cent develop better relationships with their teacher.

• 90 per cent get along better with other kids.