Big Brothers, Big Sisters celebrates 30 years

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2004

The picture is quintessential: big brother horsing around with little brother, both of them laughing, both of them having a good time. Yet the two fellows in the photograph are related to each other by choice, not by blood; their bond is new, but their affection is real.

"This is something I've always wanted to do, ever since I was in college," Jay Zornes of Ironton said. "I was the youngest in the family. I had two older brothers and a dad and they played a big part in my life. After seeing a presentation about Big Brothers Big Sisters a couple of years ago I thought about the free time I had and that I could give back to someone."

Six months ago, Zornes contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Tri-State. After the interview and acceptance process, he was matched with a 6-year-old boy from Ashland, Ky.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State case manager RaShawna Smalley said the national organization matches children primarily from single-parent homes with adults who can provide a nurturing, stable relationship and be a positive role model.

"We do take some kids who are being raised in foster homes, or by grandparents, or whose parents work a lot," Smalley said.

Adults must be 19 years of age or older, complete an application, background check and interview and be willing to spend 6-14 hours each month with the child.

"The volunteer process is extensive," Smalley said. "We set up an interview at their home and we meet all the people who live in that home.

We make sure there are no safety issues in the home. We conduct background checks on all the people 18 or older who live in the home. We check the sex offender registry. If they are accepted, they get training on things to do with the child, detecting child abuse, and so forth."

Boys are usually matched with men, although occasionally they are matched with women. Girls are always matched with women. Big Brothers Big Sisters also allows couples to join the program together- Big Couples, who can be matched with a boy or girl.

Smalley said right now, there are four Lawrence County Children, two boys and two girls, who are on the waiting list for an adult match. Right now there are four matches in Lawrence County.

Big Brothers Big Sisters also has school- based

and after school programs in which adult volunteers work with children in or after schools. Right now, only Crabbe, Oakview and Verity Middle Schools in Ashland have such programs.

Zornes and his little brother have been matched for approximately six months.

"We do a little of everything together. The first thing we ever did, we went to Central Park and threw the football together and then he played on the equipment. We go to the movies, bowling. We try to do something different every time we meet. It's exciting to see him get excited. I go to pick him up and he runs down the stairs. It makes me feel good knowing he's having a good time."

Zornes said his hope is to provide Michael with a positive role model, and encourage him to stay in school, and eventually become a productive member of society.

Would he encourage others to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters? Absolutely.

"A lot of times people just don't think they can make a difference, but they can. And this is one way to make a difference."