Portage Big Brothers and Sisters looking for volunteers to mentor kids on waiting list

Katie Alberti


For more information on volunteering for Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County

Call: (330) 296-6655

E-mail Ron Kilchenman at [email protected]

To make donations: make all checks payable to Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County, 220 W. Main St. Ravenna, OH 44266


Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County is looking for volunteers to become mentors for children currently on the group’s waiting list.

“We have 90 children throughout Kent, Ravenna, Streetsboro and Brimfield all waiting for a big brother or sister,” said Ron Kilchenman, associate director of Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County.

When discussing the kids, Kilchenman said he believes there are so many who currently need a volunteer because of high divorce rates and publicity the organization has received.

“We have gotten a lot more publicity in local newspapers, and I believe that gets parents interested in our organization,” Kilchenman said. “I also think high divorce rates in the United States add to the increase of children on the waiting list.”

Since the organization started in 1981, Kilchenman said Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County have served roughly 1200 children.

In addition, Kilchenman said all the children in the organization are between the ages of six and 17 and come from various backgrounds.

“We work with one and two parent families,” Kilchenman said. “Usually if it’s two parents, one parent travels a lot or it is the grandparents who take care of the child. By having a mentor, it gives parents a break and lets the child explore something new.”

It’s not hard for college students to become volunteers, Kilchenman said.

“The only requirements the organization has is that the volunteer is at least 18 years old and out of high school,” Kilchenman said. “We discourage students from volunteering in their first semester of school because they are still getting adjusted to college life. After students complete their first semester, we’d be thrilled to work with them.”

This October, senior nursing major Jamie Short said she will have been a volunteer for the organization for two years.

When spending time together, Short said she and her little sister participate in a wide-range of activities.

“When I’m with my little sister, we go to movies, the mall and get together to do homework,” Short said. “Occasionally we get dinner and go to speakers on campus. She enjoys these activities because she really likes seeing all the college kids.”

In addition, Kilchenman said most children love spending time with college students.

“When they step foot in the Kent State library, their eyes get so big,” Kilchenman said. “It’s so thrilling for them to go in a dorm room, watch a football game and participate in art activities. They get so excited to be on a college campus.”

For students who want to spend time off campus with their little brother or sister, Kilchenman said there are many things they can do depending on their interests.

“If a volunteer is interested in sports, we will match him or her with a child who likes sports,” Kilchenman said. “If the volunteer likes computers and video games, we’ll put them with a child who has similar interests. The same goes for almost anything.”

Kilchenman also said volunteers are required to meet with their little brother or sister at least three times a month for one year. During this time, the child learns a lot from their mentor.

“The volunteers make such a big difference in these kids’ lives,” Kilchenman said. “There is nothing better than seeing them learn to respect adults and gain self-confidence.”

Senior communications major Jessica Starr said she believes these kids need a mentor roughly around their age to inspire them to work towards higher education.

“It’s important for kids to have a mentor close to their age,” Starr said. “If college students take the time to volunteer as big brothers or sisters, it may keep a child out of trouble and inspire them to work towards higher education.”

Kilchenman said a lot of the organization’s student volunteers inspire the children to go to college.

“A lot of the volunteers talk to their little brother or sister about going to college,” Kilchenman said. “They learn about loans and grants and are encouraged to go to school.”

Although Short said she cannot hang out with her little sister all of the time, she finds volunteering for Big Brothers and Sisters of Portage County to be rewarding.

“I can honestly say that it has become much more than a volunteer experience. It’s a very fulfilling opportunity. My little sister has become a very close friend of mine and means as much to me as any real sister could.”

Contact social services reporter Katie Alberti at [email protected].