July 2020

Hello Friends!

This isn’t the first time in our country’s history that we have seen protests, and this isn’t the first time they have been violent. This isn’t the first time that there has been a delineation between peaceful protests and destruction of property. Those who want to peacefully assemble are demanding justice for the systemic racism in this country. Those seeking only to inflict harm and incite terror do not speak for us or our communities. They do not speak for our agency.

Yet we live and breathe a significant part of the solution. Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are evidence-based, and our data demonstrates that mentoring builds key social and emotional skills youth need to succeed in academics, career, and life. We witness the power of mentorship and the transformational impact relationships can have on the trajectory of a child’s life. And, deeply enriches and changes a Big’s life. We know that every child is one mentor away from actualizing their potential. Every successful person can tell you about an impactful relationship that changed their life for the better. In these times of physical distancing and social upheaval, our Littles, particularly our Littles of Color, need us more than ever before.

The national Big Brothers Big Sisters network is comprised of diverse leadership and staff. In fact, we have a long history of bringing people from differing backgrounds and viewpoints together to serve our youth and their communities. We have become experts at leveraging the power of humanity to strengthen communities. We are invested in defending the potential of Littles.

Through mentoring, we provide a viable direct service solution worthy of financial and intellectual investment that delivers social capital now and into the future that we are committed to building. We have a lot of work to do. Our families are hurting. Today, to our entire community, we declare proudly that we unapologetically serve our diverse communities. This includes People of Color, LGBTQ(IA+), faith, etc. We are at a pivotal moment in history. Are you able to support our work? Do you now have the time to mentor a child?

I would like to thank everyone involved in making our Virtual Auction and Raffle a great success. Whether you were an event sponsor, provided an auction item, made a donation to BBBS, volunteered to make it all happen, or bid on auction items, we sincerely appreciate your participation and support. It would not have happened without each and every one of you. And we need each and every one of you. Thank you for making a difference!

Jackie Johnson
Executive Director

Leslie and Chris Yasgar and their daughter have been matched with PJ for 2 years this July! This Big Family match enjoys doing a variety of activities together and have enjoyed going out to eat, grilling, playing catch, watching movies and just hanging out at Leslie can Chris’s house and just all have a lot of fun together. 

Leslie, Chris and PJ have also attended BBBS activities like Summerland, Robotics and our Holiday party! Chris is also a Marketing Representative for Federated Insurance, who has been an incredible partner for BBBS. Leslie and Chris are great supporters of our fundraising events as well. This year their match grew after the birth of Leslie and Chris’ son! It has been great to see this match grow in their friendship and we look forward to seeing what adventures they have in store for them in the future!

In June we hosted a Virtual Trivia Night for our matches and waiting Littles. Everyone had a blast testing their knowledge and connecting over Zoom!

Thank you to Dairy Queen for donating some gift cards as prizes!

We have 100 waiting Littles - if you have some time, please join us for a Zoom Info Session and let's get you Matched!

Breanna and Rylee are!

A Big welcome to one of our newest matches: Breanna Haakonson and Rylee! They both enjoy arts and crafts, cooking and baking and going to parks. As you are considering being a Big, check out our current list of new Matches.

We would also like to congratulate these Matches who are celebrating milestone anniversaries ! We ask all Bigs to commit to at least one year of mentorship - that one year of consistency makes a BIG difference in the life of a child.
We host a well-attended spring gala each year, which is our largest annual fundraiser. For the first time ever, we were unable to hold our annual spring gala in its typical format, due to health & safety precautions related to COVID-19. Not wanting to fully cancel an event that is integral to the program, our staff, event co-chairs Rick and Aleen Roehl, and committee members, quickly restructured the event into a virtual format including an online auction and Facebook live raffle drawing. The virtual gala raised nearly $180,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
In addition to providing funding for the mentoring program, the gala also raises awareness of the community’s need for mentors. This year, the High School Bigs program was featured, which pairs Central Minnesota high school students with youth in their school district. The mentoring matches spend time together each week, at the child’s school. Big Brothers Big Sisters offers school-based mentoring programs in the St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, Sartell, Foley, and Pierz school districts. You can view a video highlighting Foley's High School Big Program with an introduction to the Penn Street Singers who were slated to sing at the in-person Gala.
Isaih Handy accepted the 2020 BriAnna Kruzel Growing Up Big Award, which honors BriAnna Kruzel, a former Little Sister and High School Big Sister who passed away in September of 2013. Giving back is a sentiment echoed throughout Isaih’s life. He is in the army and is currently deployed. In addition to serving his country, he is an active and valued community member. Isaih volunteers for the United Way, serves on Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Program Advisory Committee, and coaches youth lacrosse. Isaih epitomizes the spirit of the award, which is to carry on the legacy of kindness and generosity BriAnna exemplified in her short but rewarding life. His acceptance video can be viewed here. He has a wonderful story to share.
The event’s presenting sponsors were: Anderson Trucking Service, Marco, and Vince & Lori Mohs. Thank you to all who made our virtual event a big success!

This month we have four board members that will be ending their service on our board. Their leadership has been an important, integral part of our agency, yesterday, today and tomorrow. We appreciate their commitment to our mission which is to " Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth."

We would like to thank the following board members for their combined 43 years of service. While they are all completing board terms we look forward to their continued involvement with BBBS.
Erin Bitzan 2010-2020
Ann Cofell 2010-2020
Andy Knoblauch, 1991-2000, 2017-2020
Joan Vincent, 2010-2020

Your book reading can help change the lives of kids in Central Minnesota! Join us for our first-ever Dream Big Book Club online event! Meet the author online as she reads selected parts of the story-sharing about her discovery and reasons for writing.

"The Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions" by Minneapolis author, Sheila O'Connor.

"The Evidence of V" is a powerful and unforgettable Minnesota story about youth,
motherhood, and family. You will read facts and fictions of the circumstances of V and June's lives. And come away with a deeper appreciation of how family history shapes family's future.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020
7:00 - 9:00 pm
Virtual, online event. Link will be sent to you when you RSVP.

FREE EVENT - During the event we will ask for your financial support, please consider a gift to support our mission if you are able.

To receive the link to the event - RSVP Julie@BigDefenders.org or call 320-258-4510.


Were you a former Big or Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program? Let's reconnect!
As the nation navigates its way through crisis, we are all feeling the toll of the unknown. The kids served through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are no different. Now, more than ever, they need the friendship & support of a caring mentor.

We are utilizing this time to grow our alumni and volunteer network, while our mentoring matches continue to connect via phone, text, video chat, and letters. 
Alumni can become re-engaged with the mentoring program in several different ways such as sharing their story, becoming a Big, serving on a committee, or volunteering at agency activities & events.
We have over 100 kids on the waiting list and we continue to enroll mentors and host virtual information sessions. To learn more about the alumni network or becoming a Big, visit  www.BigDefenders.org .

This month’s Partner Spotlight goes to Dan Barth and DMR . BBBS of Central MN has worked closely with Dan for many years producing videos and events to advance our mission. He is a friend to many in the nonprofit sector through his generous support and huge talent! But this year we think he really outdid himself! Check out these two videos originally intended to play at our in person event, we were excited to share them as we promoted our online auction. View Isaih's Story and the Penn St. Singers videos. Enjoy! 

If you are interested in serving on an event committee or have questions about it contact Emily Steinmetz at 320-258-4515 or Emily@BigDefenders.org
Jenna Binsfeld, Peggy Brown, Debbie Clausen, Kevin Fitzpatrick (Treasurer), Patty Funk, Jeff Gannon, Lee Hurd, Courtney Kunkel, Holly Lee, Bill Martin-Chaffee, Vince Mohs, Curran Poganski,
Marie Primus (Past President), Luke Riordan, Rick Roehl, Alex Schoephoerster (Vice Pres.),
Christie Schulte, Peter Spaniol (Secretary), Sonya Weiber, Vicky Welty (President)

Barb Anderson, Scott Bement, Mimi Bitzan, Mark Coborn, Joe Francis, Brad Goskowicz, Keith Julson,
Shelly Bauerly Kopel, Gary Marsden, Karla Myres, Steve Sauer, Kurt Scepaniak, Joyce Schlough,
John Schnettler, Rob Schumann, Eric Stalboerger, Perian Stavrum, Mark Traut, Bob Walter,
Don Watkins, Sue Wendt, Mike Ziemann