Big Brothers Big Sisters across the state have become one big family.
Formerly independent BBBS agencies on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island united to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hawaii, effective Sunday.
"The consolidation will enable the agency to serve a greater number of children facing adversity ('Littles'), providing each child with a one-to-one relationship with an adult role model ('Bigs')," said a news release about the unification.
“Little” Ruth Emmsley, 8, and her “Big” Karin Harris discuss some of the highlights of their time spent together Thursday in Wailuku. The pair matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maui said they have enjoyed planting and caring for a garden, creating artworks and hanging out with mellow dog Puakinikini. Formerly independent BBBS agencies on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island have united to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hawaii.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Representatives from each island - including Big Brothers Big Sisters Maui Executive Director JD Wyatt - marked the unification Friday at Ala Wai Elementary School on Oahu, the oldest school-based mentoring site currently in operation. Dennis Brown, who was the first "Little" to be matched with a mentor in Hawaii a half-century ago, will serve as president/chief executive officer of BBBS of Hawaii as well as head the regional BBBS of Honolulu office.
"Statewide consolidation means Maui programs can be expanded and supported at a greater level," said Wyatt on Monday.
The mentoring agency will be able "to reach areas where we haven't been able to go to," such as East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, he said.
The consolidation also will allow for "more stable and consistent funding," to eliminate some of the "gaps" that can occur, he said. The "unified presence" statewide, unique among BBBS agencies across the nation, may strengthen their hand in obtaining federal grants as well, he added.
BBBS on Maui has had a "pretty consistent budget" with county and Maui United Way support and an income stream in a contract with Savers to gather new and used clothing. He added that his job will still require him to raise funds for the agency.
All the money raised on Maui will stay on Maui, he said.
"Consolidation was not about 'hey, we are struggling,' '' Wyatt said. Instead, it was more about synergy, "the right thing to do" to pool resources.
In consolidating, no one in the Maui agency lost his or her job, he added.
Big Brothers began in Hawaii in 1963, when Judge Gerald R. Corbett summoned a group of civic-minded people to address a concern over the rise in cases of "fatherless boys" involved in juvenile delinquency, truancy and public disturbances. Their solution was to establish an organization on Oahu where qualified and dedicated role models could extend themselves to youths in need of guidance and support through one-on-one friendships.
Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies on the Neighbor Islands were formed on Maui in 1968, on Kauai in 2007, and most recently, on the Big Island in April.
Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters' professional staff matches children with volunteer mentors in long-term one-on-one mentoring relationships at schools and in the community. In addition, Big Brothers Big Sisters provides ongoing professional support to the children, their parents/ guardians and volunteer Bigs throughout the life of the match.
"The result of these relationships has been proven to have a positive impact in three focus areas: To help youth achieve educational success; to avoid risky behaviors, and to have higher aspirations and hope for their futures," the news release said.
The program statewide supports more than 1,200 participants annually.
"Consolidating the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs in Hawaii under a single, statewide agency called Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, with regional offices on Hawaii island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu, will increase cost savings in operational areas to support more one-to-one mentoring programs for youth statewide," the news release said. "Each regional office will maintain the identity that is unique to their local island culture while striving to reach people and places that Big Brothers Big Sisters has traditionally not served before in Hawaii."
* Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, bbbshawaii.org