Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State

Two years ago, Big Sisters of Rhode Island made a “BIG” decision.

After successfully providing girls with mentors in Rhode Island since 1967, the organization decided to expand its program and begin to provide mentors to boys, and even changed its well-branded name to the more inclusive, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State (BBBSOS).

And now almost two years later, not only has the change been met with overwhelming enthusiasm, but it has allowed BBBSOS to launch new programs to match more boys and girls with mentors.

BBBSOS knows mentoring works. An independent research study found that after 18 months of spending time with their “Bigs,” the “Littles,” compared to those children not in the program, were:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 37% less likely to skip a class
  • 33% less likely to hit someone

What mattered to these kids was the fact that they had a caring adult in their lives. Because they had someone to confide in and to look up to, they were, in turn, doing better in school and at home, at a time in their lives when even small choices can change the course of their future.

The need for mentors in the Rhode Island area has never been greater, and with more kids and more programs, also comes the critical need for more men and women to volunteer and become mentors.

BBBSOS operates a number of mentoring for programs for children ages 7-15. The programs include:

Traditional Mentoring — matches at-risk children in long-term, one-to-one relationships with adult volunteer mentors. While “matches” may formally remain in the program until the boys and girls turn 18 or graduate from high school, many of these relationships will last a lifetime.

School Based Mentoring — pairs high school and college students with elementary and middle school students who may be in need of additional academic support or personal encouragement.

Mentoring for Children of Prisoners – helps reach some of this special population of 3,000 at-risk children in Rhode Island who have at least one parent in a state or federal prison.

Military Mentoring — provides one-to-one mentoring services to children of active duty military and deployed parents, and also engages members of the armed forces and military veterans as volunteers.

Big Couples — a new, innovative program launched just this summer which allows a married couple to share the mentoring responsibilities with a boy registered in the program.

To help fund it’s professionally supported mentoring programs, BBBSOS collects gently used clothing and small household items that are re-sold through its valued, strategic partnership with the Savers Corporation. Needed items include all types of clothing, household linens, toys, decorative items, books and shoes. Items can be brought to one of the BBBSOS Donation Centers on 1540 Pontiac Avenue in Cranston or 1341 West Main Road in Middletown, dropped into any of the 80 purple donation bins located around the state, or can be scheduled for a home pick up by calling (401) 921-2434.

The agency’s biggest need remains, however, for more men and women to step up and volunteer to be mentors. The time commitment is minimal – only a few hours every week or two – yet the impact is profound and can last a lifetime. Individuals, or couples, interested in learning more about becoming a mentor can call (401) 921-2434 or email

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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