Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, a South Tampa-based nonprofit organization that provides children with one-on-one adult mentoring in Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties, now offers a new Military Mentoring program to support children of military families.
“The program was developed because military families continue to undergo a high level of stress and have a need for more support," said Stephen Koch, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.
Children ages 9 or older, with a parent on active duty, in the reserves, in the National Guard or whose parent died in the line of duty, are eligible for the program.
From playing catch to helping with homework to writing a letter together to a deployed parent, mentors do simple things with children to help them to cope with the stress of military life.
“Mentoring is both a fun and meaningful way to support our military families,” said Koch. "Mentors provide youth in a military family with another trusted adult to help them through the challenges and stress they are experiencing; in this process, they also support the role of the parents, whether present or deployed."
Volunteer mentors can commit their time in one of three ways:
- Community-based mentors spend approximately nine hours a month with a child, doing free or low-cost activities in the community.
- Site-based mentors spend one hour a week mentoring a child at his or her school or after-school site.
- Sports Buddies participants commit to spending time with a child twice a month, playing and watching sports together.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay hopes to enroll 100 volunteers and children in the new Military Mentoring program by May 1.
The nonprofit was among 21 agencies around the country to receive a national grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
“The grant we received to cover the costs associated with recruiting, screening, training and supporting volunteers and families specifies a May 1 deadline for setting up the mentoring relationships,” said nonprofit senior communications specialist Gerri Freid Kramer.
Kramer is trying to get the word out in the South Tampa area because of the many local military families working at MacDill Air Force Base.
"We feel that MacDill AFB is a good place to recruit volunteer mentors, since those who have been in the military or work with the military can relate to the stresses that military families experience," she said.
Parents and volunteers can apply online at bbbsfl.org or by phone at 813-769-3600.