BB/BS and Monroe Kiwanis are driven to serve youth

A little sister and big sister share smiles that are common to this unique program which was started by Monroe Kiwanis.

By Doug Dewey
Executive Director

Over the years Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County has been able to achieve great things. And at every turn you will find the Monroe Kiwanis Club and its members.

Without the Monroe Kiwanis Club – and its mission to serve youth – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County could never have existed. In 1985, then Kiwanis President Clarence Peters, and Major Emphasis Chair Dave Mosher, undertook a survey of over 30 local pediatricians, educators, clergy, law enforcement professionals, and social workers to highlight the needs of area youth, and to suggest ways to serve them. The results were clear. Youth in Green County needed a Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

None of the existing Big Brother Big Sister agencies were able extend service into Green County. That left only one option. Green County would need its own Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. The Monroe Kiwanis Club sponsored a feasibility study on forming an agency, and then made application to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County, Inc. As with any new endeavor, the first few years were littered with challenges and pitfalls. The Kiwanis Club of Monroe was there to help see us through by providing funding and volunteers.

Kiwanis provided critical startup funds, and has over the years provided funding for computers and other critical needs.

By far our biggest source of income is the Annual Bowl for Kids Sake campaign. For 21 years the Monroe Kiwanis Club has provided at least one bowling team. For the last several years the Bowling Team has been headed up by Dennis Dreikosen. In 2006, the Kiwanis fielded a second team headed up by Lamont Zimmerman. In addition, many, many club members bowl on teams formed at their place of employment.

As or even more important than financial assistance has been the Monroe Kiwanis Clubs dedication to service. Over the years there has been no shortage of club members who have volunteered to give of themselves. Our ‘best known’ program is Community Based Mentoring that matches At-Risk-Youth (or Littles) with adult volunteers (or Bigs). Research has continually shown that youth that take part in Community Based Mentoring achieve more academically and socially, and are less likely to take part in risky behaviors like drug use, vandalism, promiscuity and violent behavior.
Big and Little matches are mutually rewarding relationships. The most common remark we hear from volunteers is that they get as much out of our match as does their Little. It is not uncommon for these relationships to span generations. Just ask Past President Claudia Styzinski – whose Little is now grown, a wife and mother, and Big to a Little girl. There have been and are numerous ‘Bigs’ who are Kiwanians. Claudia Styzinski, Marge Elder, George Vernon, Dr. Bob Vickerman, Mike and Nora Sanders are just but a few of them.

School Based Mentoring matches elementary students to high school students or an adult volunteer (like Past President Judy Heitz and Marge Edler). They meet once a week during the school year to work on homework, play socially interactive games and generally hang out together. This has become our most popular program, serving 80 Littles in the Monroe School District. Our research shows that both Littles and Bigs improve their academic and social skills.

The Monroe Kiwanis Club has been an important part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County’s history. It is a fact to say that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County simply would never have existed without the Monroe Kiwanis. With the continued support of the Monroe Kiwanis Club and its members – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Green County will continue to thrive, and will continue to match youth to adult volunteers.