The topic of the conversation was the effects of COVID on Big Brother's Big Sister's. I've summarized below the Top 3 Positives & Top 3 Opportunities created by the COVID epidemic for BBBS. Ramirez stated that March 16th they very much STOPPED EVERYTHING. Since then matches are down significantly
and the school based program has really been hit hard, there are no group match activities, and the growth in the program from 2019 has all but disappeared.
Postive One - Relationships
Covid Required BBBS to completely rethink how they kept relationships going between their Bigs & Littles. Safety is and remains the number one priority of BBBS and they have continued to create safe parameters to foster these relationships. They have kept the program running even with the uncertainty of COVID. That is a huge victory.
Positive Two - Streamlining
Ramirez has been instrumental in streamlining some of the processes at BBBS. In particularly the match process. I was originally a part of the school based program in High School and then mentored a young man for almost a decade in the one to one program. At that time the onboarding process took months and was riddled with paperwork. BBBS of Oklahoma's new platform "Match Force" has streamlined the application and expedited a once cumbersome process.
Positive Three - Staffing
Under the leadership of Ramirez BBBS has not had to lay off any of it's staff. Ramirez said she as looked hard at the budget and changes have been made to make the operation more efficient.
Opportunity One - Placement
The number of Littles waiting for a Big have NOT decreased. However, Ramirez took a somber tone in stating that the number of Bigs HAS decreased. In particularly, young boys. Young boys desperately need men to step up and mentor. In OKC alone if a young girl came into the program tomorrow she would be matched immediately. A young boy in OKC would go a waiting list with what Ramirez says is approximately 120 other young boys still waiting on a mentor. In fact, Ramirez was quick to point out this is the LONGEST the waiting list has ever been for young men.
Opportunity Two - Fundraising
Like any non-profit BBBS of Oklahoma relies heavily on donations. Many are familiar with there popular "Bowl for Kid's Sake" initiative. Because of COVID these fund raising efforts were stifled. Ramirez used this opportunity to find another way to engage and Implemented a new software program to streamline giving. Under Ramirez BBBS of Oklahoma has built up a reserve fund. However, that doesn't keep Ramirez from focusing on the importance of fundraising.
Opportunity Three - Staying Creative
One of the most eye opening moments revolved around the realization, as Ramirez put it, that "virtual has lost it's glamour." BBBS of Oklahoma has remained steadfast in trying to promote their Bigs to stay engaged and stay creative. One great example was a recent Big Brother who heard his little liked to play XBOX online went out and bought an XBOX to continue connecting with his little. Another Big Sister bought ingriedients to make a meal, dropped them on the porch, then ZOOM called making dinner together with her little. COVID has brought out some unique ways to connect with one another that are sure to continue in a Post-COVID world.
So what can you do to help? Mentor. As someone who has been a part of this program for over a decade it does NOT take a ton of time. It simply takes intentionality and a heart that cares. Especially men. BBBS desperately needs men of action to walk along side the young men. These young men need strong male influence in their lives. You could be that influence.
A few practical things you can do.
1. Make sure you're at least following the conversation. I've listed the 6 BBBS of Oklahoma regions below. Know who's active in your community.
2. Donate. After the call it became very clear that under Ramirez's leadership BBBS of Oklahoma is in good financial standing all things considered it. They still need your help. Consider a year end monetary gift.
3. Finally, engage. Consider mentoring. Small moments I've learned can create big impact. Currently BBBS offers a school based program, a one on one program, and a new "Big Couple" program that I'm really excited about. The "Big Couple" program allows a committed couple to mentor a Little together. All Littles in "Big Couple" matches are young men.
Here is where I leave it.
The link is below.
Click the image.
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Big Brother's Big Sister's of Oklahoma