STEUBENVILLE - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson County, 2700 Sunset Blvd., is one of several United Way-affiliated agencies in the county trying to make a difference for local youth.
The agency, which has been been operating in the county since 2006, recently has seen a significant increase in the number of adults willing to be mentors for at-risk children, according to Phyllis Riccadonna, agency director.
"This agency promotes the well-being of at-risk children by introducing them to a mentor on a one-on-one basis," said Riccadonna, adding the agency operates from 10 am. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays.
MORE ADULTS HELPING — Phyllis Riccadonna, director of Big Brother Big Sisters of Jefferson County, said the agency has seen an impressive increase in the number of adults willing to be mentors for at-risk children during the past year. The agency is one of 19 in the county the United Way of Jefferson County assists. - Mark Miller
Riccadonna said the agency has had many names of children seeking mentors through the program but recently has seen an uptick in adult volunteers willing to be mentors. Both the children and the adults are found through marketing and word-of-mouth advertising, she added.
"We have a board that meets monthly that's very community-oriented," she said, adding children wishing to be in the program must be from ages 7-17. "We have plenty of children (wanting to be involved). Their parents call here.
"We have matched more children with mentors this year than in all of the previous six years combined," continued Riccadonna. "We have 20 matches now, which is phenomenal. Everyone has to go through a background check. We want to see an investment of at least 12 hours and three interactions (between child and mentor) a month. Most of our mentors spend way more time than that (with the child)."
Riccadonna said children in the program have certain emotional needs fulfilled while also becoming educated and enjoying experiences they might not otherwise have the opportunity for.
"Many of the mentors are parents, people without children and even single people," she said. "They are willing to bring that child into their lives. The child also mentors the adult about their lifestyle. I get excited when I see these kids."
Beth Rupert-Warren, director of the United Way of Jefferson County, said she's been impressed how the agency has grown in the past year.
"(The program) has done a phenomenal job this year," she said. "That really serves a need in our community. Young lives have been changed. Those seeds that are planted in youth - you never know when you will see the harvest."
For information, call (740) 264-3306 or go to www.bbbsjeff.org.
The local United Way is aiding 19 area agencies in the 2013 campaign, which has a goal of $430,000. To donate to the United Way, call (740) 284-9000.