It’s Big Brothers Big Sisters Month across the nation, and here in Stettler it’s all about raising awareness about the organization and the need for more mentors.
To that end, staff and volunteers have planned the ‘Paint the Town’ campaign with the aim of further reaching out to the community, explained Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS.
“We are raising awareness about recruiting mentors, so we will be painting windows. Also, a lot of the businesses will be putting our message on their signs.”
Several mentors and their ‘littles’ will be heading out to paint the windows, which will be left decorated for a couple of weeks.
“We will be putting up our Big Brothers Big Sisters logo which has the teal colour in it, and then we will also put up balloons at the businesses that are having our signs, and they will also be in our colours – teal, white and green,” she explained.
September 18 also marks Big Brothers Big Sisters Day.
In the meantime, Shuckburgh said the need for mentors continues as they have lost a few matches due to folks heading off to university.
“But we are adding a bunch more in-school matches, so that’s good. And we’ve also had a real influx of Big Sisters! So currently, we are looking for ‘little sisters’. So we’ve made a few new matches, and will continue with that.”
Still, there is a need for more men to sign onto the program.
“We do have a bunch of the younger guys stepping up – we have two, 14-year-old boys that want to start mentoring, and they are allowed to start in-school mentoring (at that age). One of them is one our little brothers, Deacon Barclay, who also speaks for the United Way.”
In fact, he will again be speaking at the United Way Campaign Kick-off Lunch in Red Deer on Sept. 9.
“We also still have that Community Boys Group that is going strong, and it’s been wonderful. We always have people who are interested in helping out with that, too.”
Shuckburgh mentioned that the summer months were tremendous, and with restrictions lifted, they had the opportunity to host some group activities as well.
“It brought everyone together, and kind of got things rolling again. We had a beach day with the mentors which was wonderful,” she added. “We went fishing – so we were able to do these kinds of activities which was really nice.”
Looking further ahead, she noted that their pumpkin carving contest is coming up in October. “We have a get-together after that with all of our matches.”
“We are also trying to position ourselves as an essential service, as we learned a lot about essential services during COVID. And we definitely are one – we continued through and we didn’t quit. We’ve been here, and we will always be here,” she explained.
“Also, our new tagline is ‘Now before it’s too late’ which Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada has come up with. They feel like we need to tell our stories, because it’s too costly not to. We are there to help kids with toxic stress and with all of those things that they went through with COVID as well,” she said.
Also ahead is the 29th annual Awesome Auction, which is slated to run online from 9 a.m. on Oct. 5 through to 9 p.m. on Oct. 7.
“We were hoping to have a live event but of course there is still uncertainty, so we decided that we would continue the online format for one more year,” she said. “We are currently accepting donations for that now. I’d also like to make a shout-out to the Stettler businesses, because every time I ask them for anything, they help us. They are just awesome.
“People have just stepped up – they are really supportive and want to continue to help us do what we do. Our community support has been amazing.”
Anyone interested in donating an item can call the Heartland Youth Centre at 403-742-5437 or check out their Facebook page for complete details.
She also wanted to remind the community about the Rainbows program, which helps kids who have experienced loss. “We will be sending out invitations for that in October.’
For Shuckburgh, each day offers plenty of inspiration.
“Definitely when you make those matches, it’s so exciting. We had a new match start last month – we went to the beach, and they literally just sat and talked for an hour and a half. They clicked right away and it was amazing.
“And just to see the happiness with the kids. Also, you see when the kids want to give back – they have been in the program or are in the program and they want to be mentors. You see the full circle.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters has done research on how much it gives back to society, and it really does,” she said. “We are still strong, and we want to just keep going. Heartland Youth Centre was busier than ever this summer – we were full every single day.
“We are here and we are going to keep on going.”