‘Big’ month of May in Jefferson County

BROOKVILLE — Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners proclaimed the month of May as Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Month in the county.

Attending the proclamation meeting were Heidi Stahl-necker, BBBS program coordinator for Jefferson, Elk and McKean counties, and LuAnn McMackin of the Guidance Center, which oversees the local program.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is a proven effective program and is one of the oldest prevention programs around,” Stahlnecker said, citing statistics that indicate program benefits.

Children who meet with their big brother or big sister about three times a month for an average of one year:

• Are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs;
• Are 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol;
• Are 30 percent less likely to be involved in a fight;
• Miss 52 percent less days of school;
• Are 37 percent less likely to skip a class;
• Have improved academic performance;
• Have improved peer and family relationships.

These results are not brought about by intense programming during the youth’s meetings with bigs, but rather through positive influence during everyday activities, Stahlnecker said.

“Mentors in the study didn’t do anything special,” she said. “It was not the activities that made the difference, but the fact that they have another positive, caring adult in their lives.

“Whether a day is spent helping with homework, playing catch or just listening, these moments can have an enormous, lasting effect on the child’s life,” Stahlnecker said.

The proclamation read, in part, that it allows the Commissioners of Jefferson County to “recognize and support those who give generously of themselves by mentoring our youth through the Big Brothers of Jefferson County program.”

Commission Chairman Paul Corbin said the commissioners “extend our appreciation to you and your work.”

“This is a very valuable program to people who are able to utilize it, both the participants and the kids,” he said.

The commissioners said BBBS is an especially valuable program because it fulfills a needed service that is not offered by other public services.
“Many of us are fortunate to recall a role model from our youth who pushed us to succeed, or pulled us back from making a poor decision,” Stahlnecker said. “We carry their wisdom with us throughout our lives, knowing the unique and timeless gift of mentorship.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been active in Jefferson County since July of 2008, and the Jefferson County program was given the highest rating possible by the BBBS national office in March of 2010.

Despite the program’s success, Stahlnecker said more mentors are needed. Currently, there are more than 40 youth waiting for mentors, and half of those are from the Punxsutawney area.

BBBS will present information regarding membership at the Punxsutawney Area Community Center May 11 from 5 to 6:30. Interested residents can stop in during that time.

Also, for more information on the program, call 1-877-776-1636.