‘Always in need of mentors’

Organization looks to the future

Carroll

This year, The Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), headquartered at 811 E. Main St., provided mentors for 161 youngsters for its school-based and community-based programs.

However, at any given time, there are always boys and girls enrolled in the program awaiting the phone call that they have been matched with a mentor or “big.”

“We never run out of kids in need. We usually have 35-40 kids on our waiting list,” said BBBS Executive Director, Lynne Carroll.

Wanting to grow the program, which has been active in Marshall County for over 40 years, the agency is now offering school-based mentoring in the West Marshall School District.

“West Marshall was an easy fit for us because all of its schools are in State Center, so it’s easy for the high school-aged mentors to get to the lower grades,” Carroll noted.

The West Marshall mentoring began this school year. Currently, 10 youth are enrolled, compared to around 40 enrolled in the Marshalltown Community School District. A new BBBS staff member was also brought on board to run the program in this school system.

The hope is to offer school-based mentoring services to the other public schools in the county.

“We serve Marshall County, Grinnell and Poweshiek County, and expanding services can only happen with additional funding,” Carroll said. “We will know more about what additional services we can offer after our strategic planning meeting in February.”

Recently, the organization received a national Gold Standard Award for excellence.

“Sixteen agencies received it, including us, and there are 313 BBBS agencies across the country, so it’s a big deal for us.”

BBBS offers free programs and events for its “bigs” and “littles” throughout the year, including movie nights, airplane rides, painting parties, free admission to sporting events, and more.

“They are good opportunities to expose kids to something to know,” she said.

One of those highlights is the yearly Bowl for Kids’ Sake, which will take place at Wayward Social on March 3 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and March 10 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Bowl For Kids’ Sake is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, with about 50 percent of its budget relying on fundraisers and grants.

To become a school-based mentor, applicants must be 16 years old or older, and 18 or older for the community-based program. Those interested undergo a background check and must provide references.

To apply to be a mentor or to sign up a child, contact the Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters Marshalltown office at 641-753-6370.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com