Pandemic creates challenges for Big Brothers Big Sisters
“We need to get back to where we were at the beginning of last year to help the youth of Long Island,” said Mark Cox.
This sentiment by Cox, who is the chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island (BBBSLI), is shared by many people who oversee nonprofits on Long Island and across the country. Besides families, businesses, schools and many other facets of life, nonprofits have struggled considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A couple of Hofstra University alums have reached out to organizations such as BBBSLI to support program continuity and, when that is not possible due to virus protocols, to provide funding for minimal services and initiatives during the interim period.
James C. Metzger, founder, chairman and CEO of The Whitmore Agency, a leading Long Island insurance brokerage and financial services firm headquartered in Garden City, has shared a total of six figures in financial support during the pandemic among five Long Island organizations, including BBBSLI. The donations honor his friend, Colonel E. David Woycik Jr. (Ret.) United States Army, and a senior trial partner concentrating on personal injury, construction, highway design and toxic torts at the Sanders Law Firm in Mineola.
Metzger and Woycik are connected through Hofstra University alumni organizations. Metzger supports many youth education and athletic programs, along with other community programs, throughout the New York metropolitan area. Woycik has been involved with BBBSLI for more than 30 years, helping grow the organization’s commitment to the Long Island community. He is past-president of BBBSLI and he created an endowment program that has raised substantial funds for children in need. The BBBSLI Nassau headquarters building at 25 Carle Road in Westbury is named in his honor.
“We focus on youth from ages seven to 16,” said Cox, who also is a Hofstra graduate. “The lockdowns have eliminated our one-on-one meetings at schools, impacting our programs between mentors and our children at a critical stage in their lives.”
New Leadership Program
The plans for BBBSLI, besides the primary goal to restore its successful one-on-one mentoring programs, is to create a leadership initiative that invites speakers to provide the boys and girls of Long Island with encouragement that will help boost their confidence for success in the classroom and in their communities. Woycik, who has developed similar programs for Hofstra University Athletics and the Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law, is committed to the success of this new BBBSLI initiative.
Incorporated during 1977, BBBSLI has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and shine. The organization’s mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth by fostering meaningful, professionally supported matches between adult volunteers (Bigs) and children (Littles).
All BBBSLI volunteer mentors are extensively interviewed, screened and trained. The organization provides every match with a professional program team member to monitor the relationship and offer guidance. The Big, Little and his or her parent/guardian establish a one-year commitment to the match relationship. Mentors and mentees agree to meet a minimum of twice a month for two to four hours to enjoy low to no-cost activities.
Other BBBSLI programs include sibling support and couple mentoring.
Sibling Support is part of the community-based mentoring program and focuses on matching the siblings of special needs children with volunteer mentors. Mentors can offer additional support and individualized attention for a sibling, meeting regularly to share activities, experiences and friendship.
Big Couples is when a mentor and spouse, or long-term partner, become Bigs to a Little. The couple provides the same interaction as individuals and also allows each adult to share separate time with a young boy or girl. Children benefit from having a Big Brother and a Big Sister.
Among the benefits of becoming a mentor, according to Cox, is the opportunity to positively change a life by ensuring that a child receives the brightest future possible.
“You also can gain a friend for life,” added Cox, “and the experience also allows an adult to learn a bit more about himself or herself in the process.”
For more information about the programs offered by BBBSLI, contact 516-731-7880 in Nassau County. BBBSLI’s Suffolk County location is 145 Sycamore Avenue in Islandia and can be reached by calling 631-273-1469. The BBBSLI website is https://bbbsli.org.
—Submitted by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island