Making a Big Difference

The New Year offers a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance to craft a brand-new list of resolutions. As 2019 starts, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Indiana is celebrating more than just New Year aspirations — the organization will mark five decades in the region.

In 1904 Ernest Coulter, a New York court clerk, noticed the same boys repeatedly coming in and out of the court room. He thought compassionate adults could guide these kids on the right path, and so the Big Brothers movement was born.

Similarly, the Evansville community faced the same issues. Fifty years ago, Frank Howard, the organization’s first executive director, founded Big Brothers of Southwestern Indiana with the same purpose as Coulter. Less than a decade later Big Brothers and Big Sisters merged together.

Today, the organization focuses on empowering, defending, and igniting the potential in adverse children within the southwestern Indiana community through one-to-one mentoring.

▲ Big Brother Phil and Little Brother Chris, left, were matched in March 2017, and find themselves bonding the most on a basketball court, shooting hoops.

“Every kid has potential for something bigger and better, and our volunteers help that kid realize it,” says current Executive Director Eric Smith.

Volunteer mentors go through an extensive application process in order to ensure complete safety for the children. “Bigs” dedicate three hours a month to spend time with their “little,” and according to Smith the children benefit from notable, positive change within as little as one year.

The local organization served more than 300 children in 2017 and the numbers are growing. More than 90 percent of littles showed an increase in self-confidence through the local program and nearly 70 percent improved academically.

“All these kids need is consistency,” says Director of Marketing Kayla McKenzie. “They need somebody who’s going to be there, who’s not going to walk away from them, who can just be there to believe in them.”

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