Big brothers/Big sisters searches for volunteers

By Sean Noble

People interested in befriending children of single-parent families can learn more about the DeKalb County Big Brothers/Big Sisters program at one of two fall orientation sessions.

Program director Susan Petersen said the orientation session serves two purposes.

First, she said, “Volunteers can get some general information and find out what the Big Brothers/Big Sisters are all about.”

Secondly, “The orientation acts as the first step in the screening process for members,” Petersen said.

The sessions are Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the Family Services Agency, at Sycamore and Bethany roads.

The Big Brother/Big Sister program matches volunteer adults with children 7- to 14-years-old of single-parent households for “friendship and lots of support,” Petersen said. She said volunteers go out with their matches on weekly outings, and the program plans monthly collective activities for all volunteers and children.

Volunteers also act as role models for the children with whom they are matched, Petersen said.

She said the screening process for volunteers looks at many criteria.

“We look for people who want to make a serious commitment to helping children and who have the extra time the program requires. Volunteers don’t have to have a car, since many of the children we work with are within walking distance, and volunteers don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money,” she said.

The screening process itself involves submitting an application with three referrals, a police check, an interview, and a home visit.

Petersen said the whole process, besides guiding in the selection of volunteers, also helps determine the compatibility of volunteers and the children they will work with.

She said the whole screening process takes about two months to complete.

“We now have 50 children waiting to be matched with big brothers and big sisters. We are really in need of volunteers, particularly men, since most of the children are boys,” Petersen said.