Big Brothers & Sisters seeks volunteers in Portage County

Meghan Gauriloff

More than 80 children are currently waiting for an adult mentor through Big Brothers & Sisters of Portage County.

Some of these children are from single-parent homes who need a male or female influence in their lives, and some are from two-parent homes where one parent is frequently absent.

“We have wonderful children on the waiting list so anxious to be matched with a big,” said Ron Kilchenman, associate director of Big Brothers & Sisters of Portage County. “The children are in need of a mentor and role model.”

There are presently 60 volunteers matched with a little brother or sister in Portage County, but more than 80 volunteers are still needed to match each child waiting for a mentor, Kilchenman said.

“Kids really enjoy having a big brother or big sister,” Kilchenman said. “They really want a friend.”

Volunteers must be 18-years-old and graduated from high school. They must also own a vehicle, Kilchenman said.


• Call Big Brothers & Sisters of Portage County at (330) 296-6655 to fill out a volunteer inquiry form.

• Fill out an application form with the names, addresses and phone numbers of four references.

• A police background check and motor vehicle background check will be conducted.

• Executive Director Andrea Neidert conducts an interview to help match a volunteer with a child.

Volunteers are required to see his or her little brother or sister three to four times per month for at least one year. A total of 12 hours a month is required to be spent with their little brother or sister.

Students who leave for the summer can be a part of the program if they are returning for the fall semester, Kilchenman said.

Even though the minimum time commitment is one year, the average one-to-one relationship lasts two and-a-half years.

Mike Beder, president of the board of directors for Big Brothers & Sisters of Portage County, has been a volunteer since 1998 when he was a student at Kent State. He attended a recruitment event at Kent State and became involved in the program.

“I like the idea of the program,” Beder said. “The program’s purpose is to supply a mentor to a child who may not have a mentor in their lives.”

Beder has had two little brothers. His most recent little brother is not in the program anymore because he is 18 years old, but Beder is still in contact with him.

“My little brother didn’t come from the most stable family,” Beder said. “I provided a sense of stability and a sense of work ethic in his life.”

Beder said his little brother now has a full-time job.

“His family didn’t consider work ethic important,” he said. “He now has a sense of pride in his job.”

Children in the program are between the ages of six and 17, although the majority of children involved are six to 14 years old, Kilchenman said.

Adult volunteers are matched with the children according to similar interests, and are of the same sex.

The organization also tries to match an adult with a child who lives within five miles of each other and what the parents want for their children, Kilchenman said.

Volunteers can also request a certain age they want their little brother or sister to be on their application, Kilchenman added.

Activities volunteers can do with their little brother or sister range from playing a sport, to showing their little around campus to baking cookies, Kilchenman said.

Beder said he hopes students find the program rewarding.

“(This is) a program where they can help a child and give them guidance, but at the same time do something rewarding for themselves,” he said.

Contact social services reporter Meghan Gauriloff at [email protected].