GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Adirondacks has an appropriately sized mission. The group matches positive adult role models with the kids who need them, across three counties. On Wednesday, they received a gift to help them keep on matching.

The organization’s Glens Falls chapter was visited on Wednesday by a representative from Centers Health Care, to present a $2,500 check donation that will go directly to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 1-to-1 mentoring program. Students in schools across Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties are paired up with adult role models; the kind they might not have otherwise.

“Our kids are going to see the benefits,” said Bill Moon, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Adirondacks. “We’re going to take some children who are going through some problems or adversity, and we’re going to pair them with role models who can make a positive change in their lives.”

The group finds kids in need through a variety of methods, from school and mental health professional referrals to parents who just can’t give what some children need in terms of attention. Those kids range in needs. Some come from two-parent households, and just need some extra emotional support due to specific circumstances. For others, it’s more complicated.

“We’ve some with very high needs, unusual living situations and mental health situations,” Moon said. “It really goes through the whole gamut.”

The range is similarly wide for the big siblings who get paired with those little ones. A look at photos around the Big Brothers Big Sisters office shows photos of kids ranging in ages from tweens into teens, smiling with older role models ranging in age from 20 all the way up to 80.

There are 77 “bigs” who work for the organization. In 2021, they served 372 “littles,” with another 102 kids currently on the waiting list. Some take on a few kids on a school-hosted basis, while ones not coordinated through individual schools tend to operate on a one-to-one basis. “Bigs” and “littles” enjoy activities together. They do things together like roller skating at the Fun Spot in Queensbury, hosting movie nights, and whatever else brings young people together with older influences they need as they grow.

Centers Health Care, which donated the funds directly, operates several nursing homes in the area, including the Warren Center in Queensbury and the Glens Falls Center in Glens Falls. The organization runs senior centers all through New York, and sees the donation and those like it as a chance to give to the community by acknowledging other groups who do what they do; helping groups with specific needs. They do so around once a year.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Adirondacks was one of five organizations that were considered for the money. The others included Glens Falls Hospital, Glens Falls Senior Center, Fort Edward/Kingsbury Senior Center and Wilton Fire Department. Big Brothers Big Sisters won by community vote.

“It was a big community thing,” said Pam Bowe, Adirondack Community Liason for Centers Health Care. “It’s Centers Health Care giving back to the community.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters Development Coordinator Marie Busse points to some of the many bins of supplies that Big Brothers Big SIsters of the Southern Adirondacks gives to the families of some of the “little sibling” kids who use their services, in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

More than one-on-one

The “bigs” and the “littles” are part of a bigger ecosystem that extends to Big Brothers, Big Sisters as an organization, and to the families whose lives are touched by that work. The materials behind that work are stacked high in a room at the Glens Falls office.

“We really try to serve the family,” said Marie Busse, Development Coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters, as she stood in a storeroom full of containers. “I mean, we have totes full of socks, totes full of school supplies.”

And totes full of a lot more, too. The organization keeps everything from clothes to toys and beyond, to help the families whose kids need help. Around Christmas, kids involved with the program will come to the Glens Falls site to get presents from their “bigs.” When they do, parents can get things they need to give those kids more of a Christmas; and also just to get through a hard time of year.

One container full of hand sanitizer tells a story in itself. Big Brothers Big Sisters has turned up the volume on those efforts since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, even assembling and giving out health kits with sanitizer and face masks.

“It’s all about the home environment,” Busse said. “If we can turn a negative home environment into a positive, that’s beneficial to a ‘little.’ If they’re able to thrive, the whole family is able to thrive.”

Over the COVID-19 pandemic, “bigs” reached out to their little counterparts in a variety of ways. Some texted. Some emailed. Others called. It depended on the kid, and on where they lived; especially when considering parts of Warren and Washington counties that lack broadband internet.

“Every family kind of had their own way to do that, but we were able to stay connected. We gave laptops and computers to some of them,” said Busse, who serves as a “big” herself. Her “little” just turned 17, and for her, texting was the way to keep the relationship alive during hard times.