MARBLE FALLS — With one successful recruiting drive behind him, Burnet County Big Brothers Big Sisters Service Coordinator Jeff Schafer says he’s setting his sights higher for the group’s year-end recruiting push.
“Our goal for the end of the year is 45 matches,” Schafer said Tuesday. “Our fall drive brought in six new volunteers, and we now have 20 active matches.”
The organization pairs local boys and girls ages 6 – 16 with adult mentors who agree to spend at least one hour a week with the child. The local group, an offshoot of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, began in November 2007.
“They take children from the community who need mentoring or who need a friend, and they spend time with them during a weekly outing,” Schafer said. “It’s mostly to give them an adult mentor in their life.”
Schafer said he has 10 boys ages 8-14 in need of big brothers, adding his group often has an immediate need for male volunteers.
“We also have a greater need for boys who want to take part in the program,” he said.
Schafer said one common misconception about the program is the belief the children have special needs or come from broken homes.
“That’s not the case,” he said. “These are normal kids who just want to have fun with an adult who is not their parent.”
Adult volunteers are asked to spend about two hours per week with their little brother or sister. Volunteers go through an extensive background check, and Schafer said each is paired with a child based on his or her interest.
“The commitment is pretty low-key. The only cost besides the one-time $30 fee for the background check, is the cost of whatever you do with the child during your time together,” he said. “We usually recommend that you and the child do free activities. It’s basically like taking a child out to play.”
One volunteer, Don McCarthy of Granite Shoals, shared his passion for coin collecting with his 11-year-old little brother.
“He’s just been a real, real joy to have around,” McCarthy said. “We got a great start from the beginning. He’s not a shy guy by any means, and I’ve introduced him to some of my neighbors, and he acts like he’s just part of the family.”
Schafer said his own interest in the program grew from 12 years spent as a youth-camp counselor.
“I figured, if you want to change the world, the best way to do it is by starting with the kids,” he said.
For information on volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters, call (512) 909-3346 or visit www.bbbsburnet.org.