Mentoring Month may have been in January, but it’s a concept which of course is emphasized all year long – particularly with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Stettler.
Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS, noted that serving as a mentor during this period of such uncertainty with the pandemic is even more important.
“I think that in a time like this, honestly, all of us have questions and all of us have frustrations and we absolutely need people that we can share those things with,” she said. “We need someone to talk to. We had Thankfulness Posts at the end of Mentoring Month, and most of our kids wrote a bunch of posts about why they are thankful for their mentors – a lot of them say it’s about having someone else to talk to.
“It’s being able to know there is someone on your side that you can talk to no matter what – that’s number one for kids. Knowing that person is there, and that they are in their corner.”
Through Mentoring Month, Shuckburgh said they shared pictures of Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors, and their call to action on each post was for folks to consider becoming a mentor themselves.
“We also got about four inquiries during the month, so that’s good! And we have a couple that are in the works right now, too.”
Through the course of the pandemic, restrictions have shifted how mentors and their little brothers and little sisters interact – often these days, it is virtually.
But in the nicer weather, in-person get-togethers have been permitted.
“It was super nice outside for awhile, so they could meet outside,” she said. “But other than that, they can’t really meet in any other capacity right now. So it’s either virtual or outside.
“For our Boys and Girls Clubs, we are able to run most of our programs because we fall under ‘support groups’. So we are running almost all of our programs – we just can’t have drop-ins. We also have programs everyday, and we are still accepting kids into those programs,” she explained.
“They can register online for those.”
Shuckburgh said the Rainbows program – for kids who have endured some type of loss – is running, too.
“We are running it in many different ways this year – out of the Youth Centre as well as in a couple of schools. We are going to run a parent group as well,” she said.
“We’ve also had to change our next fundraiser, which is Lloyd’s Bowl for Kids which we always have in February,” she said, adding that the hope, of course, is that the bowling alley will be open by late February.
“What we’ve said is that we are calling it Bowl for Kids – COVID edition. It’s also our 33rd annual event. We would like people to participate virtually. But if the bowling alley opens, they can participate at the alley or by doing WII bowling at home – but we are asking them to make a video and to send it to us by April 1st.”
Of course, it won’t be like a normal year where all the organizations and groups gather to bowl at the same time. Rather, each group is asked to video their own bowling session.
“We are also taking donations, so they can mail us a cheque or drop it off – they can e-transfer us or they can make a donation on Facebook,” she explained, adding that Bowl for Kids typically raises about $15,000 per year for the organization.
“We are really hoping that people will take this on,” she said.
“And there will still be a prize for the best costume!”
In the meantime, the community has been wonderful about helping to spread the word about the need for mentors.
“Five local coffee shops have agreed to partner with us – starting on February 1st through the month, they have been providing coffee sleeves that display our need for mentors, and a call to become a mentor,” she said. “They are putting those sleeves on all the coffees that go out their doors,” she said.
These days, youth are of course welcome to sign up for a Big Brother or a Big Sister. And new mentors are always welcome, too. “They can go to our Facebook page and find out all the information on what is available on there as well.”
Shuckburgh said with a current marketing challenge BBBS is taking part in, a question came up as to how the pandemic has affected the organization.
“We actually came up with positive things that have happened at the youth centre during the pandemic. Yes, there has been a loss of revenue due to cancelled fundraisers. And yes, it’s been a challenge working around changing regulations on a consistent basis.
“Have we been on the roller coaster that has been COVID-19? Yes. However, there have been positives and some of those are that we have streamlined our registration so that it is online now.
“We also have smaller groups of kids so they get more attention then ever. Our staff are also super creative and we’ve changed programming accordingly. And the kids are resilient!
“We’ve also had a really creative outlet because we are still partnering with the Outreach School. Also, kids have been able to do online art sessions with us throughout the whole time if they haven’t been able to be here.
“So we’ve been connecting in new ways with our kids and our families,” she explained. “We’ve also been bonding as staff because we have tried to have a lot of fun as well!
“I’m also so thankful that we have Winnie (Bissett) as our leader, because she is always looking for something fun to do for someone else, or for something to life someone’s spirits. She’s kept me positive, and that’s been great.
“It’s also about, what can I do? And I’ve seen a lot of people asking that – ‘What can I do?’ What can I do to make things better?’”
Find the Heartland Youth Centre on Facebook or check out https://stettler.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/