Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Center Receives Sustainability Award

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ new Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center has won an Austin Energy Green Building 3-star energy award. The award honors community structures that support a cleaner environment through efficient water and energy use and that provide healthy, comfortable spaces for staff, clients or residents.

The new mentoring center is part of the Mueller Redevelopment, a LEED Gold Neighborhood Development certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The eco-friendly building opened its doors on January 25, 2016. Although the mentoring center is four times larger than the agency’s former facility, it takes only twice as much energy to run. A number of innovative features reduce energy use. The facility’s core support spaces use natural light reducing the need for artificial lighting, and an energy-efficient HVAC system reduces the system’s run time.

Situated on a public bus route, the building offers easy public access without a car, reducing gas consumption and emissions.

The building design also supports increased physical activity and employee wellness. On the second floor, the Youth Activity Center provides a place for Bigs and their Little Brothers and Sisters to relax or play games. During the week, staff use the space to practice yoga.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is proud to be part of such a forward-thinking community that supports a cleaner, healthier environment.  The site of a former municipal airport, Mueller offers a sense of community and multiple amenities. A blend of commercial and residential spaces, the Mueller neighborhood boasts parks, restaurants, a grocery store, apartments, and homes, all within walking distance.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new building aligns with the agency’s mission of creating brighter, healthier futures and outcomes for children.

The award was presented to BBBS’ CEO Brent Fields at a national Green Building Sustainability Celebration held at the Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center on November 14th.

“Receiving this award is such an honor,” Brent said. “We strive to maintain an eco-friendly and sustainable environment. It’s exciting to know that this energy efficient building is helping us to make an even greater difference in our community.”

See pictures from the award celebration here

Photo credit Arnold Wells/SK photo. Images provided by Austin Energy.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters:

Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 1,000 children in Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bell counties every year. For more than 46 years we have matched children, ages 6–16, with supportive adult mentors who build friendships and offer encouragement and support to each child, helping them discover opportunities and build skills that lead to success in life. Last year more than 98 percent of the children served by BBBS remained in school, improved or maintained their grades, and avoided early parenting. Children served by our program also attend college at rates that are twice the national average for their peers. For more information, visit www.BigMentoring.org.

About AEGB:

Since 1991, Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) has been cultivating innovation in building and transportation for the enrichment of the community’s environmental, economic and human well-being. This mission is achieved through green building ratings, consulting services, code advancement, education and professional development. AEGB ratings raise the standards for energy efficiency, water quality and conservation, community compactness and connectedness, indoor environmental quality, material recourses and site development. The AEGB ratings are specific to Austin and reward sustainable building practices on a scale of one to five stars.

U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each operating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.

BBBS’ Spooktacular BIG Fall Carnival

It was a weekend filled with tasty treats, spooky costumes and exciting carnival games! On Saturday October 28th Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas hosted its annual BIG Fall Carnival. The unBOOlievable event welcomed approximately 300 children, families, and friends to BBBS’ Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center in Rathgeber Village.

Bigs, Littles and staff members embraced the cold morning and made it a day to remember. Matches enjoyed each other’s company as they played carnival-themed games, created craft projects, and ate delectable Halloween candy.

“It is such a joy to hold this event every year,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It is great to see matches interacting with one another. Our staff enjoys this chance to spend time with matches as well. Bringing people together is what BBBS is all about, and this event is a great opportunity to do that.”

This year’s carnival featured activities including an inflatable slide, an inflatable wrecking ball game, soccer free throws, a beanbag toss, and jumbo Jenga. Not to mention the yummy treats such as shaved ice, freshly popped popcorn, and delicious chocolate covered fruit snacks donated by Edible Arrangements.

“This was my first year at the Fall Carnival,” said Ana, one of BBBS’s match support specialists. “I learned that kids will do anything for candy! I was able to spend one-on-one time with my matches, which was pretty awesome. That morning I even did a match introduction and the match was able to experience BBBS for the first time at the event. Overall, our Fall Carnival was great and very fun.”

Representatives from Austin’s Fire Department No. 14 and the Austin Police Department’s mounted patrol also took part in the festivities, showing and demonstrating their gear. They even allowed kids to climb to the top of the bright red fire truck and to pet their patrol horses.

Another great feature of this year’s carnival was the “Big Futures Live Forward Resource Fair” that took place inside the mentoring center.  The purpose of this event was to connect recent high school graduates and current high school Littles with resources for finishing high school, financial literacy, job training, and higher education.

Littles had the opportunity to check on their BBBS’ scholarships and to speak with representatives from organizations such as Austin Community College, Huston-Tillotson University, Peloton U, Goodwill’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Program, BB&T Bank, American Youth Works, and E4 Youth. There were also helpful promotional materials from St. Edward’s University and The Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Financial Aid Saturdays.

“It was awesome to see Littles and their Bigs really take their time at these booths to talk about the futures our Littles see themselves striving towards,” said Candace Bunkley, BBBS’ scholarship coordinator.

BBBS’ carnival brought together a diverse group of participants: Bigs, Littles and their families, board members, staff members, volunteers, community partners and friends, as well as children from our Rathgeber Village neighbor, Austin Children’s Services.

This event would not have been possible without the generosity and participation of numerous sponsors and volunteers. We offer special thanks to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Intersys Consulting, The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, Edible Arrangements, the Young Men’s Service League, the Austin Police Department, the Austin Fire Department, Bounce Around Austin, MyEventistheBomb, Kind Bars, Hapi Drinks, and General Motors, as well as those who were part of our Live Forward Resource Fair.

See additional Carnival photos in our Flickr album here

See event photo booth photos here

Big Brothers Big Sisters Opens New Mentoring Center

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas celebrated the opening of its new Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center on January 25th at Rathgeber Village in the Robert Mueller Development. Several hundred people attended the historic event, including the agency’s first executive director, first Big Brother, and one of the organization’s founding board chairs. Appropriately, the opening coincided with National Mentoring Month.

Smiles, tears, and excitement were on display as children, families, current and former Big Brothers and Sisters, donors, staff members, community partners and friends came together to mark this special occasion.

The event began with a dynamic performance by “The Thunder,” St. Stephen’s Episcopal School’s talented drumline. Following opening comments by Brent Fields, BBBS’ chief executive officer, guests were welcomed to the facility. Current Big and Little Brothers and Sisters cut the grand opening ribbon and participants were invited to tour the new building. Attendees enjoyed refreshments, a photo booth and the opportunity to share their favorite BBBS stories, memories, hopes and well wishes on specially created ‘Story Cards.’

“It was an historic milestone and a celebration of our rich legacy of community service; one that brought together our past, our present and our future,” Fields remarked. “I loved seeing many of our current Bigs and Littles standing beside our founders during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was truly a “passing of the torch” as current matches officially opened this amazing facility that will serve children and families now and for generations to come.”

“A favorite memory that I’ll cherish for a long time, was standing at the entry and seeing and hearing the buzz of activity from kids and families, our Bigs and staff. We’ve never had the space to host such a cross-section of people who are part of this mission,” Fields added. “It was pretty neat seeing everyone enjoying the time together. Bringing people together is what our work is all about, and this event underscores how our new Mentoring Center will allow us to do just that.”

BBBS staff also enjoyed seeing the reaction to the new facility. “People were so impressed by how big, how beautiful, how warm and welcoming the building is,” said Ellen Harsch, an enrollment supervisor who is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with the organization.

Work towards this day has been an overarching goal for many years as the agency outgrew its former physical location long ago. At approximately 24,000 sq. ft., the new building is four times the size of the agency’s former facility and it provides ample room for BBBS to serve more children, families and volunteers. Amenities include 6 dedicated meeting and interview rooms, a state-of-the art conference room, two exterior terraces, and a large youth activity center.

“In my entire professional life, I’ve never had a prouder moment. And it’s not just about bricks and stone, but about all that this building represents in terms of what it took to get here and what it allows us to do moving forward,” Fields continued. “It’s exciting to see the agency grow from an organization that was originally focused on providing mentoring services to 10 fatherless boys forty-six years ago, to one that now serves over 1,000 children and families, with a waiting list of over 600.”

“Now, for the first time, we are not constrained by space. We can now work on growing our organization to serve more kids and the community as a whole.”

Currently, there are several organizations working with BBBS to use part of the facility for future gatherings and events. Such community connection provides BBBS a unique way to tell its story and to create more awareness of the agency’s life-changing work. It also gives BBBS a way to ‘pay it forward’ and to support other community groups.

“There are a number of organizations that have shared resources and space with us when we have needed it,” Fields said. “Now we can offer the same service to others.”

“It’s amazing to think how many of our grand opening attendees might one day become Bigs, donors, or staff,” Fields concluded. “And this building will be a connecting point. Ultimately, this space will allow us to bring more people together, make more matches, serve in new ways, and engage more people in what we do and how we do it, expanding our impact in the community.”

In addition to Bigs, Littles, families, donors, alumni, staff, and friends, special guests in attendance at the mentoring center grand opening included Larry Guillot, BBBS’ first executive director; Doug Phelan, the agency’s first official Big Brother; Charles Morrison, one of the organization’s founding board chairs; Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president of Huston-Tillotson University; Brian Manley, Austin police chief; and building donors and namesakes Laura and Kyndel Bennett, and Sara and Dick Rathgeber.

Grand Opening Comments, Stories and Reflections

As part of our grand opening celebration, guests were invited to share their favorite BBBS stories or memories, or to tell us why they are excited about our new mentoring center.  We received many beautiful responses.  You can read some of them here.

“There are so many things I loved and continue to love about BBBS… interviewing Littles & Bigs and seeing them as matches at events, craziness and meaningful moments at All-Staff meetings, being inspired by my own Little Sister and being matched for 4.5 years and counting, watching Brent run around trying to fix roof leaks at Tillery when it rained (leaks were always in a new spot), the fact that I’m able to have a new role as an advocate for the amazing work and mission that BBBS carries out.” –A Big Sister and Former Staff Member

“BBBS has given me so much: A career I love, a passion for mentoring, amazing friends and coworkers, my Little Sister. This new building will help BBBS continue to do these things for others and will help change people’s lives in the Austin community.” –A Current Staff Member and Big Sister

“I owe a great debt to BBBS of Austin for providing me with a friend for a lifetime. Dale and I were matched in 1981 when I was 7 years old. My father had recently passed away and Dale provided me the friendship and mentorship I desperately needed. I am a current board member and I still see Dale often! Thank you BBBS!” –David, A Former Little and Current Board Member

“When we were called for a match, I was happy. My daughter and her Big Sister have had a 1-year anniversary already and they continue to grow together. I love the program and hope to soon have my other daughter matched with a good Big.” –Mother of a Little

“I have been with the program for about 8 years now. My mom asked if I wanted to be in the program during my year of 5th grade. My grades were struggling. I had no guidance without a father figure in my life. I was matched with my Big Brother and we have been best friends ever since and have grown up together.” –A Little Brother

“I think the center is cool. My best memory is hard to choose because it’s all fun. Rock climbing was fun. I love my Big Sister. Also, this is a big building.” –A Little Sister

“The best memory with my Big was when I went to my basketball game. It was amazing.” –A Little Brother

“Thank you for all the fun activities you guys put on for Bigs & Littles. It’s amazing to see you grow from the small office to this mentoring center! Here’s to many more years of Bigs & Littles FUN!” –A Big Brother

“My favorite memory is every time my Little and I work on our scrapbook, because we get to reminisce on all our outings.  I’m excited for what this new building will have to offer in terms of activities.” –A Big Sister

“I love seeing our Little grow and becoming a confident young man who has an amazing future ahead of him. My husband and I are privileged to say we are a part of his life.” –A Big Couple

“I have seen so many ‘magic moments,’ but there’s something really special about watching our kids walk our BBBS Scholarship stage and hearing about all the awesome post-educational plans they have! We are surrounded by so many fans, supporters and families. I am SO happy to now have a ‘home’ that they can all visit and enjoy.” –A Current Staff Member

“My wife and I were both Bigs in 1994-95 in San Antonio. We ended when our Littles ended the matches and we had our own kids. I was able to re-join the agency in 2013, joining the Board of Directors. It’s been such a pleasure to re-engage and be part of the wonderful growth of this agency.” –A Current Board Member

Thank you all for being an important part of OUR story! If you have your own BBBS memories and comments to share with us, please send them to Brenda at blindfors@bigmentoring.org 

Please Join Us for the Grand Opening of our New Mentoring Center

mentoring-center-grand-opening-card-srgbAs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas marks its 46th year of service in Central Texas, the agency is pleased to announce the grand opening of the organization’s new Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center, a facility that will allow BBBS to serve more children and families throughout Central Texas in years to come.

On January 25th, 2017, the agency’s founders, donors, former and current Big and Little Brothers and Sisters, board members, community leaders, families and friends will gather to celebrate the historic opening of this new facility. It is fitting that the center is opening in January, which is also National Mentoring month.

The public is welcome and invited to attend.

Honored guests will include BBBS’ first Executive Director, BBBS’ founding Board Chair, as well as the agency’s first Big Brother, among others. Current and former Bigs and Littles will also be on hand. A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place, and, following opening remarks, tours of the building, interviews, entertainment, activities and refreshments will be provided.

A Message of Gratitude From Our CEO

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“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward
 Greetings,

As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

We have reached an exciting moment in our history with our move to our new facility – the Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center. It’s a moment that has been 45 years in the making. A moment that connects our past, our present and our future. A moment made possible by the work, efforts and involvement of all who have come before us… all who have contributed to making BBBS what it is today.

This is a moment for gratitude.

As I reflect on this unique moment in time, I am grateful to all who have been part of our rich history, who have been part of our work and who have shared in our journey.

I am also grateful for our agency’s 45 years of impactful service in the community, and for the opportunity to continue this work as we move forward.

I am grateful for the creation of this new mentoring center, a place that has been a hope, a need, a dream and a passion for many people, in many ways, over many years.

I am thankful for, and excited about, the new ways this facility will impact our daily work and our work in the community. We are already seeing some of these impacts now:

  • For the first time in our history, our staff and belongings are all under one roof
  • At our October BIG Fall Carnival, our first event in this new location, our new space allowed us to invite all of our matches, volunteers, friends, associates, children and families on our waiting list, alumni, neighbors and others into ‘our house’ – something that has never before been possible.

As I look to the future, I am grateful that we now have the resources in place that will allow us to dream bigger and to think more aspirationally about the impact we can have as we go forward.

Finally, in this season of gathering with those we care about, what I am most grateful for is you. I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this moment with you, grateful for your role in our lives and our work, and grateful for the privilege of continuing this mission together as we work to improve the lives of children and families in Central Texas.

Warm wishes,

Brent Fields
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas

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BBBS’ BIG Fall Carnival = Big Fun

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Popcorn, snow cones, inflatable slides, and hula hoops were all part of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ BIG Fall Carnival on Saturday, October 29. It was a fall celebration that welcomed an excited crowd of over 300 children, families, and friends to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center in Rathgeber Village.

There were plenty of treats and smiles as many kids came dressed in their Halloween costumes to enjoy the day. “What a great kickoff event for our new facility,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It was a special day for our matches and guests alike.”

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“This event perfectly reflects the new opportunities that our mentoring center will make possible,” Fields continued. “This new space will allow us to serve larger numbers of kids, families and volunteers, to partner with other organizations, and to bring community members together in new ways.”

“We could never have had an event like this at our old facility. We’ve expanded our space and, in so doing, we’ve expanded the kinds of opportunities we can offer those we serve. It’s going to be exciting to see our carnival grow year to year, to watch our organization grow, and to see our impact on the community grow as well.”

“A special ‘thank you’ to Katharine and Ted Barnhill, a former Big Brother and board member, whose generous sponsorship made this event possible.”

Bigs, Littles and employees alike had a great time Saturday. “The best part was watching the kids run up and down the line of games,” laughed Saul Espinoza, one of BBBS’ match support specialists. “You could tell that some parents wanted to slow down a bit, but the kids were having a great time and they just wanted to try everything. I overheard one kid saying ‘I just keep winning!’ He was excited about doing so well at all the different games he was trying.”

The free event was reminiscent of an old-fashioned country fair. Activities included a cake walk, an inflatable slide, a basketball toss, a bean bag throw, an inflatable wrecking ball game, hula hoops, face painting and much more. There were also lots of special treats.

Numerous sponsors and agency partners provided refreshments. Honest Tea supplied drinks. Wells Fargo Bank and BBBS’ board member Carlos Barbosa made freshly popped popcorn, and Edible Arrangements owner and former Big Sister Reva Enzminger provided delicious ‘ghost pops’ (ghost shaped pineapple slices dipped in chocolate) that were quite ‘pop-ular.’

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“The chocolate covered pineapples were probably the biggest hit! Ok, maybe that was my favorite,” Big Brother Abraham Salas remarked. “My Little Brother, Kevin, enjoyed the snacks as well as the football ladder game and the bean bag throwing game. Although we didn’t join in on the inflatable wrecking ball, we enjoyed watching others participate. All of the inflatable games were awesome.”

Representatives from Austin Fire Department Station No. 14 and Austin Emergency Medical Services were also on hand to talk with children and to show off their trucks and equipment.

BBBS’ carnival brought together a diverse group of participants: Bigs, Littles and their families, children and families from BBBS’ waiting list, BBBS’ alumni, board members, staff members, former staff members, and friends, along with children from the Austin Children’s Shelter.

“This was a historic event that marked an important moment in time for our agency,” Fields concluded. “This is the first time in our 45-year history that we’ve been able to invite all of the people connected with BBBS to our space… to our ‘house.’ Our new mentoring center is, and will be, a gathering place…a meeting place… a place to bring people together. And bringing people together is what our organization is all about.”