Changes coming to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of GR

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Grand Rapids is being replaced with a different mentoring model.

D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s Home runs the local Big Brothers, Big Sisters program through a sort of franchise agreement. But recent cuts from Heart of West Michigan United Way Heart, which provided about  60 percent of Big Brothers, Big Sister’s local programing, caused D.A. Blodgett officials to reassess the effort.

They determined they could do a better job providing mentors to boys and girls without the constraints put on by the National Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.

“Our agency and our mentoring program has great recognition in Kent County and West Michigan,” Jim Paparella, the president and CEO of DA Blodgett-St. John’s Home, said. “So we really looked at the trade-off between paying membership fees for the requirements — sometimes overly rigid — and branded logo that comes with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, with allowing us to be more strategic and visionary and really adapt for the local need. It just wasn’t a good fit anymore.”

The organization will switch to a new model known as Mentoring Services on Oct. 1.

The mission of the new model is to “engage, empower and equip youth and young adults with knowledge and skills to realize their unique potential and place in the world” through mentoring by trained adults.

The target group of the new mission will be people ages 10 to 25 who are considered at risk. That includes foster children, who Paparella said were hard to serve under Big Brothers, Big Sisters’s program requirements.

“Certainly not paying membership fees allows those savings to be rechanneled into serving more clients and reinvesting into the program. And we just want to be more creative and visionary and more targeted in who we’re serving with Mentoring Services that doesn’t always fit national’s eligibility criteria,” Paparella said.

There will be several informational meetings in the coming weeks for those who want to learn more about what Mentoring Services will look like in the future.

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