Volunteers needed for Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 2, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.
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Big Sister Autumn Hunter of Batesville and her Little Sister, Debra, have been matched for three years through Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas. The chapter is looking for additional volunteers to partner with area children.

— Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas is looking for volunteers willing to be matched with one of the 22 children in the area waiting for their Big.

“For an area like Batesville, that’s a lot of kids,” said Amanda Roberts, executive director of the chapter. “We’re taking some time now to do a big recruiting effort.”

Typically, Roberts said, there is a need for more male volunteers. But the current waiting list is split 50/50 between girls and boys, so just as many women volunteers are needed.

“Primarily, the kids we have on the waiting list come from a single-parent home, or they’re in the custody of grandparents,” Roberts said. “We have one grandfather raising an 8-year-old granddaughter, and he wants her to have a female around to do things like painting nails.”

The North Central Arkansas chapter helps children from Independence, Jackson and Craighead counties, along with some in Sharp county. The Batesville area itself currently has 23 matched Big/Little pairs, Roberts said. The Newport area has around 10 matches.

David Pittser of Batesville started working with his Little, Dekon Torrez, seven years ago. The pair were matched by Pittser’s daughter, whose husband employed Torrez’s mother. Soon they were an official Big/Little pair with the North Central Chapter.

Although Pittser admits to having had reservations about the program at first, all of his questions were answered by talking with Roberts about the program. Now he offers advice to other people considering volunteering.

“People have some reservations about being out of town or having plans and not having enough time,” Pittser said. “But if it’s something you can bring your Little along on, that’s great. If not, you can always reschedule with your Little.”

Roberts said Big Brothers Big Sisters requires volunteers to commit to a minimum of one year of service.

“Ninety percent of the time, matches last beyond a year,” Roberts said. “It’s a small agency, and we put emphasis on quality matches.”

Matches aren’t made on a first-come, first-served basis but are based on personalities and interests.

“Potential Bigs and Littles are matched based on life circumstances,” Roberts said. “Many times a volunteer will hear a particular child’s story and say, ‘I was that same kid.’”

Volunteers are asked to spend at least eight hours a month with their Little. Visits can be as simple as sitting in the park and talking or going out for ice cream, Roberts said. The North Central Arkansas chapter also holds quarterly activities that all Bigs and Littles can attend.

“The biggest thing is the time factor,” Roberts said. “Things get busy, but people can always just call their Little if they’re away on business. That’s fine, too. Kids just want to know that they’re special.”

For Pittser, who was named Big Brother of the Year for Arkansas in 2012, the benefits of becoming a Big Brother to Torrez are numerous.

“When we moved to Batesville, I was already retired,” Roberts said. “I feel really good that I could move somewhere and was able to do something for people that was good. I didn’t come here and remain anonymous. I made a contribution.”

For more information on volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas, call (870) 612-8888 or email Amanda Roberts at amanda@bigbrothersbigsistersnca.org.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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