Efforts to bring Big Brothers Big Sisters back to Odessa are coming close to reality.
Kay Crites, executive director of the nonprofit in Midland, said $20,000 more is needed to make it happen. The initial goal was $93,800.
“We’ve come a long way, but we need it by July 15 so that we can be up and running by the fall semester with the school district,” Crites said.
She added that this will give the agency time to line up volunteers and conduct background checks so when the schools are ready, Big Brothers Big Sisters will be ready, as well.
Crites said she would like to have 15 to 20 volunteers to start. Volunteers have to undergo a vetting process that includes background checks and several other steps that generally take four to six weeks. They also have to undergo some training.
Mentoring Specialist Susan Miller will run the Odessa office, which Crites said will be located in the nonprofit area of Connection Christian Church’s new building. Crites said mentoring specialists handle everything to do with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
That includes talking to parents, enrolling children, talking to volunteers, organizing what’s needed for training, background checks and interviews and finding the best matches for each child and volunteer. The program also checks with everyone involved to make sure the match is successful and safety protocols are being followed, Crites said.
This edition of Big Brothers Big Sisters will be set in the schools. Crites said it will be based at one of the elementary schools to start with.
“Then we’ll expand as quickly as we can. We’re going to start small and let it grow. We will work with ECISD to identify which school would be the best,” Crites said.
Those who wish to donate can call Crites at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office, (432) 687-0195, or they may donate online through the website, bbbsmidland.org and go to the donate page, then “in honor of,” and put Odessa in the comment tab. That will take donors to PayPal and they can check out. Donations may also be mailed to the Midland office, 714 W. Louisiana, Midland, TX 79701. Donors should write Odessa in the memo line if they want their contribution to go there.
Crites said her agency receives calls every month from parents in Odessa who want to enroll their child in the program.
“We have to raise this money before the national office will give us permission to enroll children from Odessa,” Crites said.
Dawn Weaks, co-pastor of Connection Christian Church, is on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I’m very hopeful that we can get it back in Odessa. It’s desperately needed. We’ve got a lot of kids out here growing up without a lot of sense of community support, so we need to get some care around them and Big Brothers Big Sisters is a great way to do that,” Weaks said.
She added that it’s not that parents aren’t trying hard, but with the economy the way it is, they’re “just working to keep a roof over their head” and there isn’t a lot of time to talk to their children about how things are going.
Weaks said the new church building, at 4241 Tanglewood Lane, should be complete in late summer or early fall. Weaks said she was a big sister in college and the experience was eye-opening. She saw the economic challenges the girl faced and realized she could have an impact just by being present for another person.
“It was meaningful to me, so when someone in my church who was on the board, Todd Richardson, told me about this project here I already had a heart for it,” Weaks said.
Crites said a three-year business plan and three-year budget has to be submitted before the Odessa office can be approved. As soon as the funds are in place and approval obtained from the national office, they can start signing up volunteers.
“It has been goal of national office and us to serve Odessa. We’re excited that we’re this close to making it happen,” Crites said.