The nation's oldest mentoring network is growing in Connecticut, offering even more opportunities for kids in the state to get some guidance from people in their communities. Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Connecticut have merged to become Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut.
Andy Fleischmann, the president and CEO of this revamped organization joined Dan Corcoran to talk about the merger.
Dan: Tell us what this merger means for kids in our state.
Andy: Dan, thanks so much for having me and drawing attention to the story. Bottom line, this means we're going to be reaching more kids in Connecticut. We were two separate organizations doing the best we could in our regions. But now that we're a single, unified statewide organization, we're expected to ramp up the amount of outreach and matching that we're able to do of kids with mentors.
Dan: The pandemic has been really tough on young people. It's been tough on everybody, but especially kids. Are you finding that there's even more need for programs like this out there?
Andy: There's a tremendous amount of need. The level of anxiety and depression among young people has gone up over the past couple of years. No surprise, it's that way with the general populace as well. But it's even more for kids we serve, many of whom have been through some childhood challenges and trauma. So there's tremendous need. There are a lot of families that don't realize that we're still here creating one-to-one mentoring support for kids. A lot of volunteers don't realize that despite whatever stage of the pandemic, we've gotten through. Big Brothers Big Sisters has kept adults matched with kids. We want to get that word out that we're still here, that we're still looking for families to sign up kids volunteers raise their hands to become mentors.
Dan: A merger and a new structure like this can come with a lot of challenges. What are you dealing with now, as you try to provide services for the entire state as opposed to just a portion of it.
Andy: It's organizational stuff that we will work through. But it's not important compared to the real work, which is reaching more kids. There are some slight differences between how the two organizations previously functioned and how we're going to operate going forward. But we all follow the same model for mentoring, which involved interviewing volunteers, interviewing families and kids and making matches that relate to the interests and passions of the different people so that we were really finding good chemistry. We're looking to keep doing that in a bigger way.
Dan: If somebody is seeing this right now and they want to get involved -- they want to volunteer, what can they do?
Andy: So we're online at ctbigs.org. The site really has everything in it. There's a button for volunteering, there's a button for donating if you want to support but can’t volunteer. There's a button for enrolling your children. It's all there at the site, and we'd love to have you come visit and get involved.