Lexington, Kentucky – Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass (BBBS of the Bluegrass) announced at its annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner June 19 that the Big Brothers Big Sisters Nationwide Leadership Council will present the local program with the 2017 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Quality Award. BBBS of the Bluegrass is in its 61st year of serving the Central Kentucky community’s children. Out of nearly 300 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies, BBBS of the Bluegrass is one of only 28 that will be recognized as a Quality Award Winner at the 2018 Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 26.
“I am so proud of our Board and staff for making quality programming a priority for our community’s youth,” said Andrea Ooten, President and CEO of BBBS of the Bluegrass. “Their hard work means more impactful mentoring relationships and brighter futures for youth throughout our region. We are very grateful to receive this award and know that it would not be possible without the financial support of our donors, and most importantly, without the 25,000+ hours that our volunteers give each year.”
Last year, BBBS of the Bluegrass served 478 children by connecting them with supportive adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and supporting those mentoring relationships. The Quality Award recognizes BBBS of the Bluegrass for its excellent community programming. With an increased focus on quality and improving partnerships with schools, in 2017, BBBS of the Bluegrass expanded its School-Plus Community program from serving one Fayette County Public School to serving three elementary schools and increased the number of High School Bigs in Montgomery and Jessamine Counties.
“Each match between a Big and Little requires attention and support, and this Quality Award shows that Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass has done an outstanding job matching children and supporting those mentoring relationships,” said Pam Iorio, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
In 2017, BBBS of the Bluegrass celebrated its 60th Anniversary by launching new initiatives and expanding programs to better serve the community. Launched in 2017, the Bigs in Blue program, which partners the agency with local police departments, kicked off in Lexington and Richmond, and resulted in 10 new matches with police officers serving as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. At this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, BBBS of the Bluegrass awarded the Lexington Police Department with the Silvey Award – an annual award that is presented each year to the agency’s community partner of the year.
“Mentoring our youth is very important – not just for today, but for our future,” Lexington Police Department Chief Lawrence Weathers said while accepting the award. “It’s also important for our young people to know that the police are there to help them, to guide them, and to try to make their lives as successful as possible.”
Also during the event, longtime Big Brother and BBBS of the Bluegrass board member, Reginald Smith, was presented with the Big Brother of the Year award, and longtime Big Sister, Angie Slack, was presented with the Big Sister of the Year award.
“From that first nerve racking meeting (with my Little) until now, I have grown to love (her) like one of my own,” Slack said. “Her family has adopted me into their lives as well. I feel like I have two families, and I love them both. I am so grateful I made the decision to become a Big and I strongly encourage others to do the same.”
The top fundraisers from each of the agency’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake were also recognized during the event. Winners included Team Pinheads and Team Gutter Busters with Gray Construction in Fayette County; Team Legal Eagles and Baptist Health ICU in Madison County; Corning and Whitaker Bank in Boyle County; and KDMK and Traditional Bank in Montgomery County. Valvoline was also recognized for being the top contributing Bowl for Kids’ Sake organization, having raised $30,000 in 2018.
Currently, BBBS of the Bluegrass’ two biggest volunteer needs are for School-Plus volunteers (mentors who can visit one of three partner schools each week for about an hour) and male volunteers, particularly men of color. “Brothers Reaching Back” is the agency’s most recent initiative aimed at attracting more men of color to become mentors. With more than 200 children on the waiting list, more than 70 percent of whom are boys, BBBS of the Bluegrass is in need of more volunteers to support young people.
“We continue to have many children on our waiting list that are in need of a mentor, with more than 130 boys waiting – many for over a year,” Ooten said. “As we graciously accept the quality award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, we are not satisfied knowing that many of the young people on our waiting list will go unserved without additional volunteers who give of their time to our community and without additional funds to support our program. We remain diligently focused on recruiting more volunteers and increasing our funding so that we can make positive change! I encourage everyone to consider becoming a mentor – with us or another mentoring agency – with hope that we can improve the many challenges that our young people are facing each day.”