#GivingTuesday : Join the movement on December 3

Join us on December 3. How will you give back?

Join us on December 3. How will you give back?

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but did you know there is a Giving Tuesday?  

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way to give something back — then tell everyone about how you’re doing it.  In other words, Giving Tuesday is a global conversation that is all about helping others and spreading the word during one epic, social media blowout. 

Here are some ideas for how you can join us – take your pick and show your support!

Spread the word

  • Tweet, Facebook or Instagram about what the BBBS mission means to you. (Don’t forget to mention us: @bigmentoring #GivingTuesday)
  • Are you a Big? Tell your friends how you make a difference.
  • Share this blog post – or one of these amazing real-life “Big Stories”!

Start a new holiday tradition

Give the gift of friendship

These are just a few ideas – what else can we do to make this the best #GivingTuesday ever? How are you participating? Tell us in the comments!

Honored and humbled

The last three weeks have been pretty amazing. First, we were awarded the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce FAVE Nonprofit award and then we were honored to be named Nonprofit of the Year by Greenlights for Nonprofit Success.

Brent Fields, CEO, with the 'Nonprofit of the Year' award.

Brent Fields, CEO, with the ‘Nonprofit of the Year’ award.

The Greenlights ceremony recognizes nonprofits that “set a high standard for quality, and demonstrate effective strategy, execution and community impact”. Specifically, the Nonprofit of the Year title was awarded to us (medium), I Live Here I Give Here (small), and Meals on Wheels and More (large) for demonstrating “a pattern of continuous distinction and outstanding quality of service.”

Needless to say, it’s been a great month and we couldn’t do it without the 1,000+ active Bigs in the community in addition to our families, friends, partners and supporters. These awards are not for us – they’re for the unified efforts of thousands of people dedicated to giving our kids a better future.

Our Enrollment Process: What to Expect

by Cynthia Rodriguez, Enrollment Specialist

The Enrollment Team

The Enrollment Team: (L to R) Christina Eisenlord, Ellen Bond, Cynthia Rodriguez, Ali Nichols.

We’re often asked what will happen after a volunteer applies to be a Big, or a parent enrolls their child in the program.  Well, here’s what’s next!

Once initial program eligibility has been determined and an interview has been scheduled, the enrollment process officially begins. Enrollment is an exciting opportunity for Bigs and Littles to gain a better understanding of program benefits and guidelines—and it is also a wonderful opportunity for our Enrollment Specialists to get to know you better!

The Enrollment process occurs in three stages:

The Interview:

Enrollment Specialists (ES) conduct in-depth interviews with Littles and Bigs in order to better explore interests, life experiences, program expectations or goals, and other pertinent information that helps create a successful match. Enrollment Specialists visit the home of each family to interview both the Little’s parent/guardian, as well as the Little. A similar interview is conducted with each Big and required application items are also collected at this time. Once a Little’s application has been finalized and a Big has been approved, they are then ready to be matched!

The Matching Process:

Matching is a careful, deliberate process that takes various factors that are discussed during the interview into consideration. Matching preferences, geographic location, personalities, and interests are just some of the factors that we consider when matching. Our team has been trained to make quality matches, and because every Enrollment Specialist is also a Big Sister, we understand how important (and fun!) a good match is on a personal level, as well. Once an ES has matched a Little and Big, the match then moves to the “presentation” stage.

The Match Presentation:

This is a time for Bigs and Littles to get to know more about each other before officially starting the match. An Enrollment Specialist will call parents and Bigs to share a bit of information about the individual that is being considered as a potential match. The presentation process is an opportunity for all parties to ask questions, gain a better understanding of match compatibility and goals, and ultimately determine whether or not this potential match will become a future match. If both Big and parent agree to move forward, a match introduction meeting is arranged so that the Big, Little, Little’s parent, and Match Support Specialist can all have the opportunity to meet face to face before the match starts. Once that meeting takes place, the match and the fun officially begins!

If your child has been scheduled to be interviewed or you are a Big who is waiting to be interviewed, our Enrollment Team looks forward to meeting you and beginning this exciting process!

What do you think? What questions do you have about the enrollment process? Ask us in the comments and we’ll get you some answers!

Connie Howe: Vice President of Programs

In early October, our longtime Vice President of Programs (Gil Levy) accepted a position with Big Brothers Big Sisters’ national office. We were sad to see him go, but joked that he’d still be on our speed dial.

Connie Howe, Vice President of Programs

Connie Howe, Vice President of Programs

Now, just over a month later, we’re thrilled to say that our new VP of Programs is Connie Howe — formerly our Director of Match Support. Honestly, if you’ve ever come to our office or met us at an event, you’ve probably met her and her infectious laugh!

Not only is she a whirlwind of energy, but she’s also been with us for more than 10 years. She knows the program, our families, our kids, our Bigs… the mission.

Before she joined us, she traveled the world, living and working in places like the Dominican Republic, Ireland and Guatemala. Once she got the Lone Star State, she worked with People’s Community Clinic, Central Dallas Ministries and then came onboard in 2003. Back then, she was a Match Support Specialist, but was quickly promoted to a supervisory role.

Last, but certainly not least, Connie is also great Big Sister to a wonderful little girl. Needless to say, she was the perfect choice — and we’re looking forward to great things with her leadership!

We Are Family

By Jessica Roe Harris, former Big Sister

Jessica and Brooke

Jessica and Brooke

Brooke came into my life in early 2005 as my Little Sister through BBBS, and over the past nine years we have become so much more than that—we truly are like family. Although initially she was pretty shy, it was not long before she opened up. It was clear early on that we were “two peas in a pod” and were developing a relationship that was pretty special. Whether it was going hiking, taking road trips, mini golf, or just going to Maudie’s or Amy’s Ice Cream (our faves), we always had a great time. And there were A LOT of belly laughs. We were goofy, kindred spirits.

I recall being impressed with how at such a young age Brooke had taken the initiative to involve herself in several community and school programs that exposed her to a variety of experiences in the academics, arts, and community service. She was so hungry to learn about life and everything it had to offer. Even when it came to trying new foods or flavors, she was always up for an adventure and would pick something new off of the menu that she hadn’t tried before. This particularly impressed me, because I always had my standard “go-to” dishes or ice cream flavors. She even encouraged me to try new things!

Brooke's high school graduation, 2009.

Brooke’s high school graduation, 2009.

To say that things have not come easy for Brooke is a huge understatement. She has encountered a series of extraordinarily difficult circumstances in her life. What makes her story more remarkable and inspiring, however, is how she has chosen to avoid the dark path that so many with similar stories often travel down. Brooke has not only persevered—she has transcended those circumstances and continues excel and inspire others despite adversity. What’s more, she has done this with a positive outlook and a zest for life that is contagious.

Jessica, Amelia (Jessica's daughter) and Brooke

Jessica, Amelia (Jessica’s daughter) and Brooke

Now Brooke has grown into an amazing young woman, full of poise and potential. Like family, we have been there for each other’s big life moments. I had the privilege of attending award ceremonies, football games (she won Homecoming Queen!), fashion shows, and high school and college graduations. She came to my wedding and has become a “Big Sister” to my daughter Amelia. Now it is my turn to attend Brooke’s wedding next summer! I am so excited and honored to witness all of the amazing things that life has in store for her.

Words simply cannot express how I feel about Brooke. She has taught me so much about transcending obstacles, living with courage and gratitude, getting the most out of life, and more importantly, going for your dreams despite the hand that you are sometimes dealt. I will be forever grateful to BBBS for bringing such a special person into my life.