Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma, through its Bartlesville location, has agreed to reach out to provide services to children and families in Pawhuska.
The new arrangement is a result of coordination between the Kiwanis Club in Pawhuska, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Pawhuska Public Schools. Diana Gaffney, of Pawhuska’s Kiwanis Club, said that contact between the club and Big Brothers Big Sisters goes back some 2-3 years, and it led to the creation of a “core group” of supporters last summer in Pawhuska. That “core group” represents various community entities, she said.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for the children of Pawhuska to be paired up with mentors in our community,” Gaffney said. “I really think it’s going to be good for the community.”
Gaffney also said she is impressed by the experience and expertise of Charlene Dew, the area director for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Bartlesville.
“She has led us through this whole process,” Gaffney said of Dew.
Dew recalled that a speaking engagement she had with the Pawhuska Kiwanis Club helped lead to the cooperation that has resulted in Big Brothers Big Sisters agreeing to provide services in that community. She said Big Brothers Big Sisters will immediately begin looking for adult volunteers in Pawhuska, and for families that would like to see their kids matched with mentors.
Dew recommended that interested families and potential volunteers consult the website of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Bartlesville — bbbsok.org/bartlesville/ — for program details and contact information. Her telephone number is on the site, for anyone who would like to speak directly with her.
Big Brothers Big Sisters serves youth up through the age of 18 years, but the youngsters are 6-14 years old when they are referred, Dew said. When a youth is referred, Big Brothers Big Sisters conducts an enrollment process that involves interviews with the parents or guardian, as well as with the youth, she said.
“Most of our referrals will be through the school,” Dew said, but some referrals will probably come through parents and guardians.
Adult volunteers are asked to dedicate a few hours a few times a month to working with a child who is paired with them. There is an application and a background check process for adult volunteers.
Dew said the average length of a match between a youth and a mentor is about 33 months, but some matches last 5, 6, even 10 years.
“It is an opportunity to make a difference and have some fun,” Dew said about the role that adult volunteers play. Big Brothers Big Sisters could not establish a program for a smaller town like Pawhuska without working through an established program like the one in Bartlesville, she said.
“We’re ready now. We can take referrals,” Dew said about Pawhuska. “I think this is just really exciting that we’re going to be able to offer this service. We know it is life-changing for everybody involved.”
Beverly Moore, assistant superintendent of Pawhuska Public Schools, said the school system welcomes the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which it views as a safe, reputable provider of services for youth.
“Our students do not always have the opportunities that students in larger communities have,” Moore said. She added that she likes the option that Big Brothers Big Sisters offers for couples to volunteer to serve a child.
“It will be a beneficial program for our students,” Moore said.