Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks volunteers

Kennedy Nolen, Multicultural Reporter

Mid-Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters is beginning their first month-long recruitment process of the semester in September.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentoring program between a “big” adult mentor and a “little” child and has had a Mid-Illinois branch for over 40 years.

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Alex Seidler said it is important for the big brother or sister to show their “little” that someone is always there for them. To establish a connection between the two, many activities are done, he said.

They can go to the movies, go outside for a walk and arts and crafts,” Seidler said.

The program utilizes college students as mentors who interact with their assigned little brothers or sisters to help them with confidence. The college students also help them if they are having trouble at school Seidler said.

Usually a commitment of one year is needed to become a volunteer, Seidler said.

He said there are over 70 little brothers or sisters waiting to be matched with volunteers, and over half of the children on the waiting list are boys.

Match support specialist Jill Schafer said the staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters interviews the children with their parents and separately interviews prospective volunteers.

Seidler said the volunteers go through an extensive interview and background check, which can take up to 10 weeks.

During those interviews the staff asks about life experiences, what the child’s favorite thing to do is and what each person hopes to get out of the mentoring experience.

After interviews, Schafer looks over the waitlist of children and volunteers to help make matches based on similar interests and availabilities.

Once a potential match has been made, the staff has the volunteer read over a pre-match summary of the child and parent’s profile, she said.

“We try to match their personalities,” Schafer said.

The family then looks over the volunteer’s profile, and if everyone is comfortable with the match, it is secured, Schafer said.

A staff member will take the volunteer to the child’s home to meet with them, set up dates to meet and swap contact information.

Seidler said the big brother or sister has a significant impact on the little brother or sister, offering the opportunity for volunteers to “lead their little down the right path.”

Through the program, Seidler said the big brother or sister the positive impact they can have on someone else.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has a flexible schedule that allows the big brother or sister to make arrangements with the child that works with their schedule, Seidler said.

He said the program creates strong bonds and life-long friendships between the pairs.

If students would like to volunteer at Mid-Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters, they are able to call the front desk at 217-348-8741 or visit

Seidler said the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters invites students interested in volunteering to Game Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 30 at Morton Park.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].