Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Introduction: With more than 360 affiliates throughout the nation, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change the lives of the youth for the better, forever. The organization’s vision is that all children achieve success in life. In addition to carefully screening and matching its mentors and mentees, Big Brothers Big Sisters provides ongoing professional staff support to the volunteers, youth and parents/guardians throughout the course of their matches to keep the mentoring going strong. The organization is backed by independent research that finds children enrolled in the program are more likely to achieve in school; avoid risky/delinquent behaviors and have higher self-esteem and aspirations. The organization holds itself accountable for these youth outcomes.
Over a 100 Years of History
Background: The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization evolved over the years from several different efforts designed to help at-risk young boys and girls. It officially started in 1904, when a young New York City children’s court clerk named Ernest K. Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. He spoke about the problems of fatherless boys to the men’s club of a local church, which promptly resolved to have its members develop personal relations with individual boys. In 1909, some of these men joined Coulter to incorporate the Big Brothers Movement, Inc. of New York as the first organization in the field. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement.
At around the same time, Irvin F. Westheimer, a young businessman in Cincinnati, Ohio, observed a young boy searching for food in a garbage can. Westheimer discussed this incident with some of his friends and they agreed to meet with and counsel local boys who had no fathers. The members of a group called Ladies of Charity who were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court initiated a separate form of organized help. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters. These several initiatives were duplicated throughout the U.S. but continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Here is a look at our history, from the start:
1902: Ernest K. Coulter, children’s court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children’s Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to
befriend girls who come before the New York Children’s Court.
1904: Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy.
1912: The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities.
1914: Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.
1917: The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI.
1923: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures.
1925: President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1930: Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City.
1934: President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1948: Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association.
1951: The Big Brothers of the Year program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named.
1958: Big Brothers Association chartered by Congress.
1970: Big Sisters International is incorporated.
1977: Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies.
1984: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia.
1985: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General.
1995: Public/Private Ventures Study on Big Brothers Big Sisters Community-Based Mentoring shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister, seminal research in the field of youth mentoring.
1997: President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia with focus on one-to-one youth mentoring; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role. Participants included former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, with former First Lady Nancy Reagan representing her husband. As a follow-up to the summit, organizers founded America’s Promise.
1998: Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded.
2002: President George W. Bush signed a bill that resulted from Big Brothers Big Sisters advocacy that included authorization for mentoring children of prisoners.
2003: President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address.
2004: Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth.
2006: First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation.
2007: Public/Private Ventures conducts a study on Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring program, reinforcing the value of strong, long-lasting relationships and leading to program enhancements.
Source: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962335/k.BE16/Home.htm