HARTFORD--In honor of its 50th anniversary, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters is working to recruit 50 male volunteers in 50 days to try and fulfill its quota by the end of September.
The organization, which serves 132 towns and cities in Connecticut, is currently in need of about 200 adult volunteers, or "bigs," to match the need on the waiting lists.
"Bigs" must make a 6-10 hour commitment to their "littles" every month.
Nutmeg BBBS CEO Andy Fleischmann said you don't need to be a parent yourself to make a good mentor. "You don't have to have a PhD in developmental psychology," said Fleishmann. "You just have to like children."
Fleishmann said third-party studies confirm the benefits of mentoring after just one year in the program.
"[It] increases the child's likelihood of showing up in school, showing up in class, doing well," said Fleischmann. "[It] decreases the likelihood that the child gets involved with violence, gets involved with drugs or alcohol."
Ana Rodriguez currently mentors two "littles" in the program, including second-grader Tamayrie Velez, with whom she was matched in June 2014. "We got along right away," said Rodriguez. "She's a great kid."
Rodriguez said she spends well over the required number of hours with Tama each month. The pair will often go to the movies, check out museums or review Tama's homework.
"We have that one-to-one special relationship that makes a whole lot of difference in her world," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who has three children of her own and works a full-time job, said it is completely manageable to mentor with a busy schedule. "It's really easy," said Rodriguez. "You can find the time to do it."
Rodriguez said she learns as much from Tama as Tama learns from her, and that her relationship with Tama is very special.
"They are not expecting much from you," said Rodriguez. "They're amazed and they're happy to have this one-to-one relationship with somebody other than their family members."
For more information about becoming a "big brother" or "big sister" click here or call 860-525-KIDS.