Big Brother Big Sisters of the Ozarks is trying to reach more children in the region, but need more male volunteers to accomplish its goal.
Chuck Dow and his assigned Little Brother, sixth grader Quincy Johnson or Q, typically start their weekly meetup with a game of basketball at the Springfield YMCA. These two have been paired together for almost four years.
“You know, from our experience, I think it just really allows kids to have a good role model, I mean that in its essence is really what it’s about.” Dow said.
He added that it allows leaders within the community to step up as good examples for children, regardless of what situation that child may be in.
Dow is one of many Big Brothers involved in the program, but more are needed. While Q did not have to wait as long as other boys, thanks to BBBS’ lunch buddies program, other boys like seventh grader Jayden Cornelius had to wait more than a year to be paired up.
Jayden’s Big Brother Zach Cooper encourages men in the community to get involved, saying it’s one of the best things he’s done. He adds it’s not as big of a time commitment as one would think.
“It’s only two hours a week, so people often say they don’t have enough time, but you know it’s two hours a week to help a kid out in need. For me it’s pretty simple, and also I really enjoy giving back,” said Cooper.
Cooper described how he grew up raised by his grandmother and mother, and he sees this as his way of giving back to kids who may be in a similar situation.
According to the BBBS website, there are over 100 boys from around the region waiting to be matched up with a Big Brother, and the matching itself takes up to a year. The process includes personality matching, training, and a safety screening. In Jayden’s case, it took longer, even though he said his part of the process was fairly simple.
“I just walked in and I did a paper, and then like a year later we got the results.”
Dow stated that for a time, the waitlist shut down, since there were too many boys waiting to be matched up with a Big Brother.
“It’s pretty sad that we can’t get enough volunteers right now to step up, raise their hands, and actually volunteer. So the simple answer is to do it. We need it.”
After Dow and Q’s basketball game, they headed down the street to the Urban Cup for a sweet treat to wrap up their time together for the week.
Dow and Q say they’re both competitive by nature, so playing sports together is what they like to do the most. Dow says that the matching process worked well for them considering their personalities.
“From the first time Quincy and I ever hung out, it was like oh my gosh, we really actually have that much in common…and so they really do some very deep level analytics of ‘I think this little would be perfect with this big,’ and they’re amazing at that part of the process.”
While the BBBS program emphasizes mentorship, it’s very clear from the way the pairs interact that over time deep friendships form.
As simply stated by Q, “I just like Chuck very much. It’s the highlight of my day.”