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Help wanted – Serving more kids

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By Todd Cohen

Big Brothers Big Sisters groups are seeking volunteers to serve as mentors for youngsters.

Affiliates in Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem are working to meet a national goal of serving 1 million children by 2010, up from 200,000 now.

“We have a long way to go,” says Bert Grisard, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Services in Winston-Salem.

That affiliate has teamed with Sara Lee, corporate partner for Walkertown Elementary School, and coordinates a dozen employee mentors there.

The group matches 200 other “buddies” age 16 and older — mainly high school students – with students at 15 other Forsyth County schools, and is targeting other corporate partners for more volunteers.

It also coordinates 250 volunteers age 18 and older who pick up children at their homes each week and spend time with them.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Piedmont, a branch of the High Point YMCA, also targets corporate partners for volunteers to visit youngsters in schools and other community sites.

“We need volunteers and we just feel like the best way to get to them is through the businesses,” says Holly Ferree, program director and volunteer recruiter.

The High Point affiliate aims to recruit 60 mentors age 16 and older to visit youngsters at schools and other sites.

It also hopes to increase to 160 — from 100 last year –the number of adults 18 and older who pick up children at their homes each week.

And it has opened an office in Asheboro and hired Marva Underwood, former detention services officer for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department, as program director there.

In Greensboro, Big Brothers Big Sisters is recruiting 35 volunteers to visit two elementary schools, up from 10 volunteers last year, when it launched the initiative.

The group, a program of Youth Focus, works with Hunter and Jones elementary schools and already has 18 volunteers, says Robin Williams, program director.

It also brings 85 students from four middle schools and one elementary school to UNC-Greensboro, N.C. A&T State University and Guilford College to meet with college volunteers.

And it matches 200 volunteers 18 and older to pick up children up at their homes.

All three affiliates receive United Way funding and raise money through annual bowl-a-thons, and the Winston-Salem and High Point affiliates hold fund drives.

Bowl-a-thons will be held Feb. 16 at Major League Lanes in Winston-Salem, Feb. 23 at Buffaloe Lanes in Greensboro and March 2 at the High Point Bowling Center.

The High Point affiliate’s annual drive begins Nov. 15, with a goal of $18,000, up from $10,000 raised last year. Winston-Salem’s affiliate begins its holiday drive in November and its annual drive in May, with goals of $10,000 and $20,000, respectively, up from $6,000 and $10,000 last year.

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