YEAR IN REVIEW
2020 had its’ challenges, most especially for young people. Separation from friends and family, the fight for racial and social justice, financial uncertainty, a pandemic, and remote learning. They look to adults during these difficult times. They watch what we say and do. Our Bigs continued to be instrumental in supporting young peoples’ self-awareness, teaching mindfulness, and encouraging self-care, positive relationships and purpose. By strengthening these pillars, they in turn, have supported their resiliency, and we are so grateful.
Beyond supporting the young people in our community, we are so proud of how the BBBS staff stepped up to the challenges of 2020. On March 12th, we knew that we would be doing some work from home, on the 13th, we learned that kids would be remote learning for several weeks, and by the 16th, we were completing assessments with our families regarding their need for computers/internet, food, cleaning supplies, and their health. By the following Monday, we had prepared a plan for deliveries of food and supplies for those that were in need by staff and volunteer, Bigs, with no idea what our futures actually held.
In addition to how proud of, and grateful for, we are of our Littles, their Bigs and our Staff members for their commitment to each other over the last year, we saw the same commitment from our community of supporters. Despite having to cancel Bowl For Kids’ Sake - scheduled for March 21st, all Sponsors and donors indicated to ‘keep the money’ and serve the community. We were lucky to have not been too far into our planning, before having to cancel our annual Rise and Shine for Kids’ Sake fundraising breakfast, as well as envision how to transition A Fall Evening with BBBS to a virtual Telethon. All throughout the year, our donors and supporters stepped up to help us do what we needed to do to support our young people and their families.
As difficult as it all was, is, and has been….we have continued to find gratitude in the relationships that we create and support between Bigs, Littles, Parent/Guardians, Staff, and our wider community of Board Members, Volunteers, Donors, and Partners. Thank you for your time, treasure and talents over the last year, and beyond!
Jennifer Spitler, Executive Director
Gregg Hammerman, Board President
BIG SISTER OF THE YEAR
You met Big Sister Zakiya and her Little Sister Autumn when they were the Match of the Month in July last year. Since then you have seen them together in our Empower Resilience campaign. This match will not be separated by the current health crisis or the cold weather. In addition to staying connected to her Little, Zakiya has helped Autumn grow, and advocated for our program in the community. She is everything we look for in a Big and we wholeheartedly congratulate her on being the Big Sister of the Year!
Autumn said that her favorite thing about having Zakiya as a Big is that she is kind. She also said she loves going on outings with Zakiya and, “just getting to know her.” Having a mentor that you can trust to show up, and have your back makes a huge impact on Littles like Autumn. It builds their confidence, both in themselves and their ability to do new things. Knowing that, that bond is reliable even in the most uncertain times, can be a guide when life gets hard.
Zakiya goes out of her way to celebrate Autumn’s accomplishments. Autumn is an excellent student, she is always on top of her school work, and adjusted quickly to learning from home. Zakiya lets Autumn know how awesome her academic achievement is by regularly bragging about how smart her Little Sister is. She made an extra effort to celebrate Autumn when she earned the Student of the Month award. When Little’s feel celebrated in this way it emphasizes the value of their hard work and motivates them to keep it up.
Zakiya not only goes out of her to be an amazing Big to Autumn, but she also goes above and beyond by giving additional time and financial support to our program. She helped with our Adopt-A-Family program this year. On #GiveBigDay, when we asked our volunteers to help us fundraise, Zakiya was there for that too. She is willing to go the extra mile, even when that mile is a difficult climb, and that is what set her apart as our Big Sister of the Year. Congrats to both Zakiya and Autumn, you are an amazing match and we can’t wait to see what you do in 2021.
BIG BROTHER OF THE YEAR
We told you Ben and Dewon’s story when they were our Match of the Month back in February of last year. When we last checked in with them it was right before everything shut down in March. Since then they have gone through the continuing health crisis as a team. Ben has gone out of his way to stay connected to Dewon, even inviting Dewon and his mom into his backyard for a safe outdoor BBQ. His commitment to his Little and his consistent support of the BBBS program, are what set Ben apart as our Big Brother of the Year. Big congratulations to you Ben, you have earned this!
Ben and Dewon celebrated two years of being matched in June, in that time they have made a point of exploring many new things. Reflecting on their journey together, Ben shared that he was most excited to watch Dewon continue to grow and become more confident in himself. He also shared that they overcame some fears together and it’s exciting to watch. A consistent and reliable mentor like Ben, who is not afraid to challenge growth, can be the key that helps unlock a Littles confidence, helping them find the courage to do things they didn’t think they could.
Ben and Dewon have worked together on the importance of healthy habits and hard work. From cooking healthy meals and enjoying smoothies, to working out as a team, Ben has both set an example for Dewon and encouraged him to stay motivated. Ben also makes sure that progress made, and goals achieved are always celebrated. When a Little’s efforts are both supported and rewarded, it encourages further progress and bigger goals.
When the pandemic hit and Washtenaw County shut down, Ben rolled up his sleeves and got involved. He volunteered to help us deliver food to our families who did not have transportation, or had at risk family members in the home. When asked about his experience delivering groceries he talked about how rewarding it was to give back to the community during such a difficult time. It’s Ben’s desire to give BIG that made him our Big Brother of the Year. Congrats again to both Ben and Dewon, matches like yours are an inspiration to us all!
Our mission is to help youth achieve their fullest potential. That journey begins with a match. When a Big and Little begin their relationship, the Big, with the help of Match Support, guides the Little towards realizing the limitless nature of their own inherent potential.
Many times, household, neighborhood and other factors, can create challenges to having the time and resources to activate that inherent potential inside a youth. And we have the utmost respect for parents/guardians who trust us with helping to support the growth of their child by matching them with a Big that can give them some additional one-on-one time, opportunities and experiences that can help ignite that fire.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, BBBS was forced to make difficult decisions and flex its’ creative muscles in order to reach critical fundraising goals. In March, Bowl for Kids’ Sake was cancelled just one week before sponsors, community members, BBBS Board and staff were planning to gather and celebrate their fundraising accomplishments by bowling. BBBS is grateful for the unwavering support of its’ sponsors and donors that took this event’s cancellation in stride and maintained their support.
A Fall Evening with BBBS, held annually each September at different private homes across Washtenaw County, was also cancelled due to Covid-19. Instead, BBBS produced a first-of-its' kind event for the Agency, The Big Little Telethon: A Little Show to Make a Big Difference. Streamed live from the home of Lisa & Mike O’Connell, 16 incredible acts entertained BBBS supporters in the comfort and safety of their own homes, while spreading the mission of BBBS across the state of Michigan. An expansive online auction and special guest hosts made this unique event a singular success for BBBS.
When a match builds on a strong foundation of trust and respect they form a deep bond. That bond reinforces a Little's confidence and sense of self. Littles who enjoy a long, successful match make better choices and become the Defenders of their own potential.
Of the youth completing both the pre and annual Youth Outcome Surveys in 2020, they reported maintaining or improving in the following areas:
TO OUR DONORS & VOLUNTEERS
Thank you for making all of our stories possible.
We would like to thank EVERYONE that supported our work in 2020. We are grateful for every donation, big and small. Your commitment to supporting mentoring relationships between volunteers and youth inspire us as staff, and empower matches to create friendships that have a lifelong impact on both the Big and the Little.
In 2020, funders understood the impact the pandemic was having on so many organizations in Washtenaw County. Many funders quickly responded by developing new funding guidelines or allowing some flexibility in the grant application. The United Way of Washtenaw County created the COVID-19 Community Relief Fund and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) extended previous general operating grants. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County received $15,000 from AAACF and $17,500 from the United Way in operating support early in the pandemic to address the immediate, emergent, and unanticipated community needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to them, and our many other grant funders throughout 2020.
We could not have supported our families the way that we did without the outstanding resources and support provided by our many community partners in Washtenaw County. Partners like Bryant Community Center, who provided groceries for our staff and volunteers to deliver to our families. We are grateful to be part of such a strong and generous community, which proved over and over again that we are truly Bigger Together.
IN LOVING MEMORY
We lost two very special BBBS supporters in 2020 that inspired donations in their memory.
Ann Feeney was a BBBS Honorary Board Member, Community Engagement Committee Member, A Fall Evening with BBBS Planning Committee Member, Rise & Shine Table Captain, but most importantly, a trusted confidant and mentor to so many. Ann was someone who gave it to you straight, in the warmest and most constructive ways. She is already missed in our zoom meetings and will be missed around our tables for years to come. We thank her family for thinking of BBBS as a recipient of memorial contributions. The second was Executive Director, Jennifer Spitler's mom, JoAnne Spitler. Jo Anne was a staple at Bowl for Kids' Sake and the Golf Classic from 2003 until she became ill, and could no longer make the trip. She folded shirts, put together goodie bags and auction packages, loaded and unloaded cars, and whatever else was needed, although JoAnne was most known for manning the grill and serving lunch at the Golf Classic each year. She brought her bright smile, fun-loving personality, and dedication to supporting her daughter and the work of BBBS to the UM Golf Course each year. We are grateful to those that made generous donations in her memory.