By Jordan Hale; Illinois College
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois is a youth-mentoring non-profit service organization that provides ongoing supportive services to children in need of a mentor. At the June National Conference, they were selected as a 2016 Pinnacle Award winner as only five Big Brother Big Sisters of nearly four-hundred received this award. Agencies selected for the Award must demonstrate excellence in quality mentoring services, including sustained long-term mentoring relationships and increased revenues. Amy Edwards, an active Big Sister and board member in the organization, is very honored that they could receive this prestigious award.
Amy Edwards is the Patient Experience Coordinator at the Quincy Medical Group. The medical center provides quality healthcare services to over 300,000 people annually in the tri-state area. She got involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters whenever her husband, then boyfriend, gave her the idea to join him in being a Big to a child. Amy has been a Big for over three years now and will continue to be involved for the rest of her life. Her message to those trying to determine if they want to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters is to “definitely do it.” She said that, “It is absolutely more rewarding for the adults than it is the Big’s. Being able to be that mentor and positive role model makes you feel good about yourself.” Though most Big’s are involved for many years, her story is completely different and truly incredible.
She began with her first “Little” and met weekly for one hour intervals and was asked to meet with her for a minimum of one year. She never missed those weekly sessions with her little and as time passed, she became closer and closer with her. Three years ago, whenever she began her journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters and her first and only little, she did not expect that that little would now be her foster daughter. According to Amy, “She went into the foster system and I snatched her up. So, she went from being my sister, to being my daughter.”
Though she has found her life-long match, that does not stop her dedication to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ryan Flynn, fundraising and social media coordinator of BBBSWCI stated, “Amy’s dedication to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is a testament to her commitment to the youth of her community. She is a great board member and an even better Big.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois works extremely hard on matching children with correct Big’s and having many events throughout the calendar year geared toward bringing them together while also fundraising for the organization. The next event is the Paw Patrol Extravaganza in Quincy, Illinois, which Amy will be working at. This is the first time they have done this event. According to Amy, “We wanted to do an event where we could incorporate kiddos and also where families could come out and do things. It is a great way to fundraise while letting families have a good time.” The police and fire departments will also be in attendance."
Whenever asked why the average person should support Big Brothers Big Sisters, she expressed the value of the dollar to them rather than to a larger organization. They do not require a lot of money, just that to keep staff in the office and do background checks for new Bigs that want to get involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. They can do a lot with a little and have proven that over the years that they are in fact doing so.
Amy and the others at Big Brothers Big Sisters believe that West Central Illinois is ahead of the game. This is exemplified with them receiving the Pinnacle Award this year. She explains that their board is very active and their staff is amazing. You must have dedicated employees to be a successful non-profit organization. Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois Cindy Denby stated that “Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois is changing lives of children. Our children's opportunity for success increases by 80 percent in areas such as graduation, less likely to use drugs or alcohol, and joining the work force. We strive to make our children's lives better one match at a time.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois betters our community’s youth one child at a time. If you would like to donate or are interested in becoming a Big, visit www.bigbrothersbigsisterswci.org for more information. You may also reach them at (217) 243-3821.