WILKES-BARRE, PA (June 12, 2020) – Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton announces today that the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge program will become an independent non-profit agency as of June 15, 2020.
The new agency will be known as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. Many of the current Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge advisory board members have agreed to be part of a governing board for the new agency, which has already been approved to operate by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Other advisory board members in Luzerne, Monroe and Lycoming counties will continue to support the new agency as well by continuing to serve in their current roles.
Since 1974, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge has helped to create, foster and support one-to-one mentoring relationships between adult volunteers and children across northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. This transition will allow those meaningful matches to continue uninterrupted, providing a direct and lasting effect on the lives of local young people. As of June 15, 2020, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton will no longer be affiliated with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in our region,” Jim Roberts, board chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said. “The families and mentors currently involved in this impactful and worthwhile program will see the same great services and attention that they normally would as this transition takes place. The current COVID-19 pandemic is reinforcing just how important these connections, and professionally facilitated mentoring, are for the young people in our community.”
“Over the last 46 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge has touched countless lives across our region. Because of the caring adults who have generously become mentors, statistics have shown the children they partner with are more confident of their performance in schoolwork and get along better with their families, while at the same time are less likely to skip school or begin other bad habits,” Mary Theresa Malandro, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said. “The members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters advisory board are passionate about this program and will continue to advocate for this valuable service. My hope is that the community will continue to support them.”
In late 2019, advisory board members of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge approached Catholic Social Services leadership inquiring about transitioning into an independent agency so that it can focus exclusively on opportunities to grow the community-based mentoring program. After extensive discussion and planning, the decision to allow Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge to become an independent agency was approved by leadership of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton.
For the last several months, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc., have been working collaboratively to make this a seamless transition for families and mentors already involved in the program. Both agencies have been sharing policies and procedures to the greatest extent possible.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge currently can operate in Luzerne, Monroe, Wyoming, Carbon, Columbia and Lycoming counties. The agency serves children between the ages of seven and 17. There are currently 224 Big Brother Big Sister matches in the program but also more than 300 children on a waiting list locally.
The new, independent agency, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania, will continue to serve all of those counties. It will also expand into Lackawanna County to support youth in that important community. A vast majority of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge employees have also been offered employment with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc.
“We are pleased to announce that Michelle Hamilton has been selected to serve as the Executive Director of the new organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Roberts added. “With more than 25 years of experience leading youth development programs, including mentoring, juvenile justice, behavioral health and childcare, she is fully committed to this mission.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters relies on community, corporate and private donations to fulfill its mission and serve hundreds of children in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. Donations for the program are still being accepted and will continue to help recruit, screen, train and match Big Brothers and Big Sisters with the children that are on the waiting list throughout this transition process.
For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, call (570) 824-8756 or visit bbbsnepa.org.