BB&T: Making A Difference

It’s been 3 years since BB&T bank signed up to be a Diamond Sponsor for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Ice Ball gala. During that time, the company has not only seen BBBS grow and change, the company’s relationship with BBBS has grown and changed as well.

“Three years ago, we were looking to further support the community by partnering with an organization that aligned with our values, and whose mission fit well with BB&T’s mission – part of which is to make the world a better place to be,” said Blake Absher, BB&T’s Austin Market President and a former Big Brother. “BBBS was near and dear to us. We liked that funds raised for BBBS would go back to our community and to supporting youth.”

The relationship between BB&T and BBBS proved to be a perfect match and each year BB&T’s impact on, and support for, BBBS has grown. Over the past three years, the company has increased annual donations for the Ice Ball Gala through an employee-led fundraising campaign, spread the word about BBBS’ work and mission to the organization’s employees, clients, friends and associates, and recruited others to support BBBS as volunteers, mentors and donors. It’s a growth no one really saw coming.

“In the beginning, we knew we wanted to connect our associates with BBBS. We wanted to be more than a gala sponsor. We wanted our team to feel invested in the agency’s mission,” Blake said. “But seeing how things have grown, and how passionate and involved our employees have become, is really amazing,”

“We have employees who have taken leadership roles in fundraising and advocacy, joined committees, and who want to become Bigs themselves. We have associates who are out there championing BBBS’ work while also championing BB&T’s mission. I didn’t think it would grow like this,” Blake admitted. “The snowball effect has been incredible. Our partnership has affected our organization, our employees and our clients. In addition to our own team members, we now have clients coming in as Ice Ball sponsors, joining the Ice Ball host committee, and then leveraging their own networks to fundraise for BBBS. Seeing this evolution has really been rewarding.”

“I think our involvement with BBBS has brought our organization together city-wide,” said Cathy Haines, BB&T’s Retail and Small Business Leader, and a former Big Sister. “We have 15 branches in Austin. Fundraising for BBBS has fostered friendly competition among all our teams and teammates. We look forward to giving back to BBBS, and we gain as much as we give. BBBS is a wonderful organization that we have all got behind, and our partnership with BBBS makes us proud.”

BB&T’s support for BBBS extends far beyond the walls of the company. “I help manage the annual fundraising campaign from the branch level, and I would definitely say that we do take it home with us,” said Susan McNeight, BB&T’s Market Leader, Onion Creek Branch. “Many of our team members not only try to raise funds through their interactions at the bank, but they also go home and tell their friends and families what they’re doing. They go on social media and say ‘Hey, I’m fundraising for BBBS. Would you consider donating?’”

“One of our tellers was a former Little, and our relationship with BBBS really means something special to her. And again, she talks to everybody she knows and tries to raise funds,” Susan said.

BB&T’s employees are also committing to more personal involvement with BBBS as well. “Every year, I’ve gotten more involved,” said Susan, who is currently a member of the Ice Ball Host Committee. “Ultimately, I’d like to become a Big Sister.”

BB&T’s support for BBBS not only brings their employees together, it also brings the company closer to its clients. “I reached out to my personal network when I was fundraising last year and I got a response from a company that donated $3,000, which I was not expecting at all,” Susan continued.  “The owner said ‘I just wanted to donate. I hope this contribution helps you reach your goal. My daughter is a Big in San Antonio, and BBBS is an organization I’m really proud of and believe in.’ He and his wife have been mentors to young kids in the past, so our campaign really touched him, and I’d had no idea. I was just making a request and his response was a surprise. This year, when I reached out to them again, they bought a table at Ice Ball. They’re coming to the gala from San Antonio and bringing some of their clients with them.”

Through all of the fundraising and networking however, BB&T never loses sight of the fact that the real goal of their activity is to get kids off of BBBS’ waiting list and into positive mentoring relationships. “That’s really been a motivating, driving factor,” Blake said. “We know that there are still 600 kids out there who are waiting to be matched with mentors of their own, and that’s something that drives us to tell every client who comes through the door about our partnership with BBBS.”

“BBBS has just moved into a new building that will give them room to grow. The agency’s program metrics are at an all-time high, and the organization has won a number of awards for program quality and impact. Now BBBS needs to increase its financial resources in order to serve more kids. We want to help make that happen.”

“I handle weekly calls with the captains of each branch and we talk about how much we have raised and how many kids those funds will get off the waiting list,” Susan said. “That makes the impact of our efforts very real and very personal. We know our activities are affecting kids’ lives.”

“When you look at the impact that BBBS makes on an individual basis, the difference a one-to-one relationship can make in a child’s life, it is very powerful,” Cathy added. “As former Bigs, Blake and I have witnessed this first-hand. To me, communicating that message is really important. Helping children, helping community members, and making the world a better place is an important part of what we do at BB&T. Working with BBBS allows us to put our mission into action.”

“At BB&T we have a saying that ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’  Blake concluded, “But, as our relationship with BBBS shows, by working together, we can do even more.”

Community Partners Support Our Matches

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas has always worked hand-in-hand with the community to ensure that children succeed. One group that exemplifies this collaborative spirit is BBBS Match Discount Partners – a group of businesses that offer their services for free, or at a reduced rate, for BBBS’ matches. These partners often assist with special events as well. By offering their support to BBBS, whether through products or services, BBBS’ community partners show how much they value our mission, the children in our community, and the importance of giving back.

“It’s such a positive partnership, especially with an organization like BBBS that’s doing the right thing for kids,” said Jeff Wilkinson, owner of PLAYlive Nation Austin; one of BBBS’ newest Match Discount Partners. Jeff’s business is an upscale video gaming lounge located at Lakeline Mall. PLAYlive Nation offers a safe social environment where matches can play video games and collectible card games like Magic and Pokémon.

“We’ve created a really family-friendly environment. We don’t allow cursing or yelling or screaming,” Jeff continued. “Bigs and Littles can feel comfortable coming in and having a good time together. It’s all about having fun.”

Jeff was referred to BBBS by a cousin who was a Big Sister. “She mentioned that Bigs are always looking for things to do with their Littles,” Jeff said. “It just seems like a win-win if we can offer something that helps matches.”

PLAYlive Nation is just one of the new activities and experiences that BBBS’ Match Discount Partners offer. Businesses and organizations contributing to the program include The Austin Aquarium, Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art, The Bullock Texas State History Museum, Austin Zoo, the Loralee Foundation, Thinkery, Austin Rock Gym, and Rick’s Cleaners, among others.

One partner that has been involved with BBBS since 2010 is CiCi’s Pizza in Round Rock and New Braunfels. A family-owned franchise business, CiCi’s first connected with BBBS when their corporate offices supported a BBBS Bowl for Kids event. “I then thought I needed to do something individually with BBBS because it’s a great organization,” said Chad Goodwin, owner. “No one needs support more than a young man or woman who doesn’t have a role model in their life to help them find the right path. The fact that Bigs provide that help is a testament to the type of people they are, and that’s something we want to encourage.”

Chad has always ensured that his businesses have been community and kid-focused. “Kids and pizza go together,” Chad laughed. “One of my fondest memories is of going out to eat with my parents. At CiCi’s, we try to bring people together through food. It’s one of the reasons we decided to do the discount partnership with BBBS. We wanted to provide opportunities for matches to sit down and talk without any other distractions, and we didn’t want Bigs to be burdened with providing that meal.”

Having community businesses partner with BBBS is a huge help for the agency and it supports our mission. “The support from community members and discount partners allows our kids and their Bigs to participate in a wider array of activities that are fun, engaging and affordable,” said Christina Eisenlord, enrollment specialist and program coordinator. “It also provides our kids with opportunities to expand their worlds and to discover all that this city has to offer.”

Business partners recognize this as well. “Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bigs are providing much more than I am providing by giving a free meal,” said Chad. “They are making an impact on young men’s and women’s lives. And those young people are going to grow up to be our customers, our employees, and contributing members of our community. We want to positively impact them.”

Though Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas is part of a national organization, our agency works at the local level. Working with community partners connects us to the community, benefits the children, families and volunteers we serve, and expands our circle of influence and impact in a way that is mutually beneficial. It is a win-win for our agency, our matches and those who partner with us; one that raises the tide for the community as a whole.

BBBS is always looking for new partners who are interested in supporting our mission. To learn more about participating in BBBS’ Match Discount Partner Program, contact Christina Eisenlord at ceisenlord@bigmentoring.org or 512-807-3611.

For a complete list of BBBS’ current Match Discount Partners, please visit our website at Bigmentoring.org/Volunteer/Match Discount Partners or click here

Bowl for Kids 2017 Was Dy-no-mite!

Peace signs, bell bottom pants and polyester ruled as participants took to the bowling lanes March 3 – 5 and raised over $135,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. It was a dy-no-mite event as bowlers donned outfits from the 60’s and 70’s and participated in this year’s “Peace, Love & Bowling”-themed bowling marathon. Funds raised go directly to providing children with caring, committed mentors, and life-changing mentoring services.

“We totally enjoy this event,” said Maria Dunn of RSM U.S. LLP, Kingpin Sponsor for the event. “Ultimately though, it’s all about the kids. We want to give young people all the support we can, because they are going to be our leaders.”

The venue was packed as businesses and individuals came together to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, and to have a lot of fun at the same time. More than 800 participants, sponsors, volunteers, staff members, and Bigs and Littles enjoyed the weekend’s activities.

“Bowl for Kids allows us to take time out to celebrate the uniqueness of our organization and the camaraderie we have as a team,” Maria continued. “And, when you look around, you see a lot of other businesses enjoying the same thing. We’re all here doing something great, but there’s a heck of a lot of laughter mixed into the evening as well.”

Teams representing businesses from the banking, architecture, engineering and construction sectors, as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers, showed up in full force, as did teams from the legal, gamers and designers, and media industries. Highland Lanes hosted the event over the course of the weekend.

Austin Powers made an appearance, along with Scooby Doo and Friends, the Fab Four (Beatles), and a group called The Bowling Stones, among others. The teams had fun posing for photos in front of the  event’s annual theme banner, as well as in a specially created “photo” bus.

Employees from Pape-Dawson Engineers made the foam core “hippie bus” especially for the event. “It was a groovy bus,” Maria laughed. “The bus was perfect for the theme, but the thought that went into it was also great.  They made it portable so that BBBS can re-use it, and they created low windows that Little Brothers and Sisters can pose behind. What a great example of how the community is not only engaged with, but also really thinking about, BBBS’ mission.”

Each year teams get into the event theme as they try to outdo one another with costumes and fundraising. Team Lucky Strikes, for example, has won the award for Best Costume in their time slot for the past four years. It’s an achievement they are very proud of.

“The theme and costumes, along with the bowling, make it a fun night out,” said Lori and Mark Ramseur, Chairs of this year’s Bowl for Kids. “It is fun seeing all the crazy costumes that people come up with. We are always surprised by the creativity.”

It is creativity with a purpose. “When we see the difference the fundraising makes, the brand awareness for BBBS, and the impact this event has for kids in the community,” Maria said, “it makes us all feel great, as individuals and as corporations. This is so much more than a bowling event. It’s about making a difference.”

Lori and Mark agree. “This is our fifth straight Bowl for Kids event,” they said. “It’s an event where people can have fun and also give to BBBS.”

It was also an opportunity for Bigs and Littles to spend some quality time together as several matches tried their hand at bowling.

“This is the 34th year we’ve held Bowl for Kids, which is one of our largest fundraisers,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS. “This year’s event was ‘far out fun’ that provides real results for kids and their families. There were a lot of silly costumes, but participants were serious about generating support for children in Central Texas. And, thanks to everyone involved, it was another great year for the event and, most importantly, for the kids we serve. Bowl for Kids is truly an event where everyone wins.”

See photos from the event in our Flickr album here

See photos from our MyEventisTheBomb moving photo album here

Amplify Austin Has Begun!

Amplify Austin runs from 6 p.m. March 2nd to 6 p.m. March 3rd. We need your help to Amplify our impact for children in our community.  Please give now!

We have a goal of raising over $20,000 to provide life-changing mentoring services to even more kids in Central Texas! With more than 600 kids on our waiting list, every gift makes a difference!

Shannon and Mykayla

Shannon has been a Big Sister to Mykayla for over 8 years. The two have enjoyed seeing movies, swimming, eating out, and shopping. But most of all, they have enjoyed simply sharing what’s happening in each other’s lives.

It’s the sharing that’s been key, as Mykayla has been through a lot for someone so young. The only child of a single parent, Mykayla was the primary support to her mother who suffered through cancer, taking her mom to doctor’s appointments and providing day-to-day care. As a result, Mykayla’s grades and academic focus started to suffer, until her Big Sister stepped in to offer assistance and stability.

“Mykayla is an excellent student and has been in Advanced Placement classes. She loves to sing and is in her school’s most accomplished choir. She has many other great attributes, such as her amazing ability to stay focused and calm, as well as her sense of humor,” Shannon said.  “When I think back to the shy 10-year-old girl I first met, and the amazing 18-year-old young woman I know today, I can hardly believe she is the same person. I am so proud of who she has become.”

Now that Mykayla is graduating from high school, the conversation has turned to college preparations. “Our relationship has deepened so much over the years,” Shannon continued.  “I told her when we were first matched that our time together was a time she could just be a kid and have fun. Now our time is more about me trying to help her decide which college to choose.”

Looking back, Shannon acknowledges that while she became a volunteer in order to give to a child, she is the one who has received a gift. “Being a Big Sister has taught me what it means to give back,” Shannon explained. “I have had the opportunity to be a part of Mykayla’s and her mom’s lives and have developed friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”

Your gift creates relationships like these. Please give now!  Thank you!

Amplify Austin is 1 Week Away!

Let’s Amplify for BBBS’ Kids!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas creates and supports strong, caring relationships that change kids’ lives for the better, forever.

We have a goal of raising over $20,000 through Amplify Austin this year. Your gift to Amplify Austin will help us serve more kids! With more than 600 kids on our waiting list, every gift makes a difference! Please consider scheduling a gift today!

Brandi and Brynn

When she was first matched, Brynn was a small 7-year-old with a baby face. Now her Big Sister Brandi describes her as a 9 ½-year-old young lady. “At the beginning of our match, I wasn’t sure if she enjoyed our outings, or me, because she didn’t show any emotions and was not a big talker,” Brandi explained. “These days, when I drop her off, she asks when our next outing will be. And ‘Can I tell you something?’ is something I hear many, many times.”

In the course of their relationship, Brynn has matured. She has learned how to accept disappointments without dwelling on them. She has also tried many new things and has discovered the importance of looking for the good in all situations.

But the growth is not one-way. “Me? I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve changed and grown. Being Brynn’s mentor has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Brandi admitted, “and because of that, I’ve been able to do some really neat things in the last two years. Brynn has challenged me, and she has helped me to step outside of myself and to feel good about caring about someone else.”

During one of their recent outings, Brynn and Brandi were talking about family and what that word means…that ‘family’ can be biological or ‘family’ can be good friends.  “Later I said, ‘You’re my buddy.’ Brynn replied ‘No, I’m your sister.’ I think that sums up the last two years of this journey perfectly,” Brandi said. “I can’t wait to see what comes next!”

Your Gift to BBBS Creates Relationships Like These! 

  • Mark your calendar and donate between 6 p.m. March 2nd – 6 p.m. March 3rd.
  • Afraid you’ll forget? Schedule your gift today!

Your support matters. Thank you for making a difference for kids in our community.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2016 Holiday Party

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Combine presents, good food, crafts and a photo booth, plus a planetarium, and you’ve got the makings of a very special holiday event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ matches. Held at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TxMOST) on Sunday, December 4, over 150 matches turned out for the festive party.

“This is one of our largest gatherings of the year for matches,” said Joe Strychalski, BBBS’ Vice President of Programs. “In addition to the fun, it provides our staff with another opportunity to connect with the matches they’ve helped create, and it allows us to give a little extra help to families in need.”

Some participants wore reindeer antlers, others wore light-up stocking caps, but everyone was in a party mood at the annual Holiday Party. “Each year our matches gather to enjoy food and fun and to get a gift for the holiday. Littles are so grateful to be able to pick out a fun gift, at times not even for themselves but for a member of their family,” said Christina Snell, Match Support Supervisor.holiday-party-8c

While holiday music played, Bigs and Littles enjoyed games like Connect Four and Uno, created special souvenirs at the ornament and photo booths, toured the museum, and snacked on donuts, fruit treats and pizza. They also visited the toy booth where Littles were able to select their gifts.

“We love doing this,” said David Alben, CEO of U.S. Micro Products. “We love BBBS and we’ve been participating in the Holiday Party for 4 or 5 years. To get to see the look in the kids’ eyes when they’re picking out a present, to see their excitement, that really brings it home for us. One of our company’s goals is giving back to the community and this is a great opportunity to be involved.”

The event helps everyone get in the holiday spirit, but it also provides some great one-to-one time for Bigs and Littles. “So many of the activities here, whether crafts, the planetarium or the museum, provide an opportunity for discussion and bonding between Bigs and Littles,” said Kimberly Blair of RSM. “I enjoy seeing Bigs encouraging Littles who might be shy or a little scared. To see Bigs reminding their Littles that this event is for and about them, that is really great.”

Matches agreed that the chance to spend some quality time together was important. “We made ornaments so that we could remember our first Holiday Party together,” said Big Sister Kate. Her Little Sister Tiani agreed that she liked making crafts, but quickly added, “I enjoyed all of it!”

Some of the older Littles such as Elizabeth, who was attending her 4th or 5th Holiday Party, teased that their favorite part was the gift booth. But, she said, “I have a lot of friends in this program so I really enjoy getting to see them here.”

Littles Michaela and Lauren compared the gathering to a reunion of family and friends. Both said they enjoyed the good food and games, and this year really appreciated the fact that the party was held at a museum.

Being at the museum also added a learning element to the festivities. That was not the only educational component of the party however, as Gregory Harrington from the National Society of Black Engineers provided hands-on experiments for the kids to try.

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“This party is in perfect alignment with what we do,” Gregory explained. “We’ve purchased toys for the event and that is important, but we also want to expose these kids to what it might be like to be an engineer. The kids may say, ‘Hey, if that guy can become an engineer, maybe I can, too.’”

In one experiment, matches used marshmallows and toothpicks to build a bridge and to see how many cars they could stack on it before it broke. A second experiment illustrated electric circuitry using LEDs and playdough.

This year’s annual Holiday Party provided a lot of fun, entertainment, and companionship for Bigs and Littles alike.

A special thank you to the major sponsors who made this event possible: ADP; AECOM ; Alpha Phi Alpha; General Motors; MyEventIsTheBomb; National Society of Black Engineers; O’Connell Robertson; RSM; RWL Markets Inc.; South Austin Rotary; Texas Museum of Science and Technology; and U.S. Micro Products.

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See our Flickr album of event photos here

See MyEventIsTheBomb photo booth photos here

BB&T: The Gift of Giving

 

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It’s amazing what a little enthusiasm can do. No one knows this better than Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T), one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ corporate partners and the Diamond Sponsor for the agency’s Ice Ball gala for the second year in a row.

“We believe in BBBS’ mission,” said Blake Absher, BB&T’s Austin Market President and a former Big Brother. “We know that BBBS’ mentoring model works. As an organization, we want to be more than BBBS’ Diamond Ice Ball Sponsor. We want our employees to be involved with, and invested in, advancing the agency’s life-changing work.”

It is this goal that inspired BB&T to organize a summer-long, city-wide competition amongst their branches to see which one could raise the most money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The campaign began in May and will run through mid-August. “We’re very competitive,” laughed Cathy Haines, BB&T’s Retail and Small Business Leader, a former Big Sister and the person overseeing the organization’s fundraising initiative. “Our employees have really taken ownership of this effort and they have organized a lot of different activities, from selling candy bars at the branch offices to raffling off gift baskets.”

Employees have also taken their fundraising efforts to Business Network International (BNI) gatherings where they have talked about Big Brothers Big Sisters and made pitches for contributions, and they have coordinated happy hour events where a portion of the tab has been donated to the campaign.

One BB&T employee who attended Ice Ball last year has taken her fundraising efforts to new heights by creating a personal email campaign that she distributed to all of her clients. “Susan has really been a driving force behind this initiative,” Cathy remarked. “Other employees have been inspired by what she’s done. She will probably be our top individual fundraiser this year.”

“It’s been fun to see this campaign snowball,” Blake added. “The excitement is contagious. Last year our employees raised $10,000; this year, we’re on track to raise significantly more than that.”

But raising funds is only part of what this effort has achieved. BB&T’s city-wide campaign has raised awareness of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ work within the organization and within the community, created a greater sense of camaraderie among employees, and allowed employees to make a positive difference for children and families in Central Texas.

“By fundraising in this way, every associate in our organization has contributed to BBBS’ mission, and in doing so, they have helped to make the community a better place for us all,” Cathy said. “There’s a real sense of pride in that.”

Moreover, this effort exemplifies BB&T’s mission as an organization. “A lot of companies have giving back to the community as part of their mission statement,” Blake added. “Implementing this campaign has allowed us to ‘walk the walk’ and put our values into action. It has given our employees an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves and to experience the difference their actions can have in the world.”

Several BB&T employees will also have the opportunity to see the impact their efforts have made by attending Ice Ball. The two BB&T branches that raise the most money in the campaign will receive two Ice Ball tickets each, along with a hotel suite. The branches can then bestow these prizes on one employee or split them between two employees. “It’s really competitive because our employees all want to go to Ice Ball,” Blake explained. “And that is really neat to see. Attending Ice Ball is a reward for championing and advocating a cause that is near and dear to us. When employees attend the gala they get even closer to BBBS’ mission and they get to be part of a larger community of individuals and organizations who are also there to support the agency’s work. And it’s such a great event.”

For employees who have families or who live in outlying areas and can’t be Big Brothers or Sisters themselves, BB&T’s fundraising campaign gives them another means of contributing to BBBS’ work in a meaningful way.

“When you see all that is happening in the world, all these horrific events, you wonder if a positive influence or a mentor in someone’s life could have changed the outcome,” Blake said. “As former Bigs, Cathy and I have both seen the positive impact mentoring has on kids. In banking, we’re not in the business of saving lives, so for us to give back, to see that good in the community and to know we’re helping current and future generations – that means a lot to us.”