August 1, 2014
By Julie Montanaro
There's a help wanted ad going out today for a few good men. 100 of them to be exact.
No. It's not the Marines. It's not an on line date. It's a call for men in the Big Bend to step up and serve as Big Brothers to young boys who need a male role model in their lives.
Seven year old Tajhja Ajayi is learning to play checkers. His opponent today? Rodney Austin.
"What does it mean to you to have Rodney in your life?"
"Good. Good things," Ajayi said with a grin.
Austin was matched up with Tajhja about eight months ago by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Big Bend and he's asking other men to make that move too.
"We've got over 400 kids waiting for mentors so we need them like yesterday," Austin said.
There are 444 children waiting for a big brother or big sister and nearly 70% of them are boys ages five to 16.
They're looking for men willing to spend at least four hours a month with a little brother - for at least a year.
Delaitre Hollinger has been paired with his big brother Brent Hartsfield since he was 12. That’s eight years and counting.
"I don't think that anyone should ever underestimate the tremendous impact they can have on a young person's life just by spending an hour out of their time every week. The impact can be phenomenal," Hollinger said.
"We're hoping that he'll have a strong male figure or a good male figure in his life," said Big Brother Isaac Boykin. He was paired with his little brother, 10 year old Franklin Jones, last fall. Boykin has been helping Jones improve his academics and have fun.
"What's your favorite thing that you've done together?"
"Go to Panama City Beach," Jones said.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters is hoping to recruit 100 men in the next 100 days. That's a tall order because just 15 have signed up in the last 90 days.
13 year old Northalik Washington is a man of few words, but in just six months, Big Brother and college senior Kyson Clark has gone from stranger - to so much more.
"At least I got somebody that cares about me," Washington said.
"We're like brothers now."
"I was trying to get a mentee, but I ended up getting a best friend and a little brother at that. We're like family now," Clark said.
Folks can apply on line or by phone, then they'll have to undergo background screenings and driving checks and complete an interview to try to make the best match.
If you are interested in being one of those 100 men call 850-386-6002 or www.bigbendmentoring.org