Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County is all about nonstop mentoring – even as this COVID-19 pandemic puts a full stop on so many aspects of life.
Mentoring is defined by face-to-face activity, connecting, relating, supporting and ultimately changing lives. So what do you do when the foundation of your nonprofit shifts profoundly in a minute’s time?
You dig into your mission and find alternatives. You connect with your supporters and ask them to stand with you. You recommit to your staff to ensure the capacity for service.
Here at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward, we’ve accomplished this and even more. Because our mission rests upon the face-to-face contact of mentors with mentees, we’ve reinvented our program in short order by transferring all of our mentoring programs to a virtual format.
This quick pivot was possible because planning started at BBBS before the U.S. was hit hard with the virus. With my background working in disaster relief, I saw what was coming. As such, we were able to create an emergency pandemic plan with input from our national organization and board of directors, covering best practices to protect staff, clients and their families and volunteers, in addition to creating a roadmap to stay in business. We have accomplished our goal: nonstop mentoring in spite of full-stop COVID by:
- Maintaining the relationship between mentors and mentees through video conferencing, FaceTime and virtual fun activities – keeping Bigs and Littles connected during this unrelenting state of stress and anxiety;
- Continuing to interview prospective mentors through video conferencing to continue mentor recruitment;
- Hosting virtual meetings to connect prospective matches to establish effective, long-term matches;
- Realigning staff, working remotely, to run the nuts and bolts of the business, programming and case management, while maintaining social distance.
In addition to reinventing our program, we’ve seen unprecedented community support, including considerable financial support, food and gift card donations for struggling BBBS families, and pro bono professional advice. Plus, our corporate partners have relaxed funding restrictions, committed completing program partnerships, including school-to-work without school in session, and have been most generous in every way.
In spite of COVID-19’s full stop, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County will continue nonstop – to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth with the goal of helping youth achieve their full potential.
Ana Cedeno is president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County. For more information, visit www.bbbsbroward.org or call (954) 584-9990.