A new mentoring program has been developed in the area to replace the former Big Brothers Big Sisters taking the name of the West Kentucky Mentoring Inc.
Suzy Crook is now the volunteer acting executive director of the West Kentucky Mentoring Inc., the program the new board of directors developed to help fill the void of BBBS. As of now, the new organization serves the Calloway County area.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Kentucky Inc. closed its doors at the end of July due to financial difficulties.
The closure dissolved the four BBBS branches in Trigg, Christian, Todd and the Murray-Calloway counties, which had existed for 16 years.
“We were like any business, and you can’t run a successful business without funding,” former case director/case manager of BBBS Suzy Crook said.
The original mentoring program in the area began in 1994 as the brain child of Roger Weis, youth and nonprofit leadership campus director, as a service project for his YNL class of mentoring in the community.
“The main concern after having to dissolve was what to do about the kids, we had 100 matches and relationships,” Crook said.
The West Kentucky Mentoring Inc. program is under the same model as BBBS with a different name, Crook said.
The new organization ran into a few bumps in the road with the naming process so they consulted with a lawyer to help devise a name that would not infringe on any pending or trademark names, she said.
“We wanted to stick with a generic name and we might possibly expand to provide services outside the county so we kept it broad,” Crook said.
Volunteers are recruited heavily from Murray State as well as from community adults.
Crook said children come to be known by the program through a referral process by teachers, agencies and even pastors when they see a need in the child’s life.
The parents of the children are then contacted to ask for permission to involve their child in the program, or the parents can even enroll their child themselves, she said.
The volunteer mentors have to commit to at least a year of weekly visits that works out to be about four hours a month.
The idea behind the concept of the weekly visits is to build a relationship between the match, Crook said.
“I have been told by many mentors that the experience is not just about the child growing, but the volunteer as well,” Crook said. “Everybody gets a lot out of it.”
The mentoring process begins with the volunteer filling out an application with room to explain their previous activities and experience working with children. They also need to turn in three references and undergo a criminal and social service background check as well as a one hour orientation interview with Suzy Crook.
“To give an example of how we match kids with their mentors: we had a child interested in becoming a police officer and I happened to have a volunteer mentor who was a police officer and they matched on other levels as well,” Crook said.
The West Kentucky Mentoring Inc. is trying to focus on creating funds to make the program stronger, she said.
“We’re just really all about the kids in the community and helping them,” Crook said.