Golden Years

Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrates 50th Anniversary in Norman

The nonprofit landscape in Norman is seemingly endless. While there are many organizations dedicated to serving the community, few have been around for 50 years. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cleveland County is one of them.

Since starting as Big Brothers of Cleveland County in 1969, the agency has grown exponentially. Shortly after its formation, it joined the nationwide organization of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Then in 2006, along with four other Oklahoma independent chapters, it joined the statewide organization of Big Brothers Big Sisters Oklahoma.

Despite changes and expansion, the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cleveland County continues to focus on helping children facing adversity. The agency is a resource for strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that can change children’s lives.

The organization’s mentorship programs create matches with adult volunteers, “Bigs,” and children ages 6-18, “Littles.” Prospective littles are likely facing challenges and are typically referred through the school system or by parents and guardians. There is an in-depth interview process for both prospective littles and bigs.

“We spend a lot of time on the matching process to make sure we make a match that is long-lasting and will be impactful for both the big and little,” said Blossom Crews, area director.

There are two different match programs within Big Brothers Big Sisters. Through the school-based program, bigs see their littles throughout the school year and the activities take place on campus. Contrarily, the community-based program is year-round, and the matches can get together in the community for activities.

Activities vary for each match, but common meetings include playing at the park or playground, working on homework, fishing, playing ball or discussing school and class. The big can also help start conversations and guide littles on career aspirations or college.

“It’s really about spending time with the child and listening to them, being another person in their corner because everyone can use more people in their corner.”

With 2019 being extra special for the organization, Crews has been envisioning what the agency’s next goals might be.

“I’ve really been working on trying to grow our matches, as well as find more mentors that will be in the community for the next several years.”

Crews said her program typically sees from 200-230 matches each year and has the second-highest numbers in the state, behind Tulsa.

“We have a great partnership with Norman Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma, which have been integral in our programs and success.”

BBBS decided not to add an additional event to commemorate its anniversary. Instead, the agency will celebrate the milestone at its annual summer fundraiser, “Cheers to 50 Years!” Crews joked that she wishes she would have named it “Cheers to the Next 50 Years!”

“We are proud and grateful for how far we’ve come, but there’s still so much to do.”

Scheduled for Aug. 23 at Embassy Suites, the food-tasting event will feature different restaurants around Norman, coming together to provide “tastes” throughout the night. There will be both silent and live auctions.

Sponsorships are available and range from $1,500 to $10,000. Individual tickets will be available soon. For more information, contact Crews at 364-3722 or visit bbbsok.org/bbbs-events/. – BSM

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