ADA — Pontotoc County Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is currently seeking a few good volunteers to enrich the lives of local children though the century-old mentoring program.

"Our Motto is, 'Making a difference one child at a time,'" said Jillian Faulkner, case manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters. "We have 14 boys and three girls on our waiting list, and every week we have more kids that are wanting big brothers and big sisters, so it's a continual need."

According to www.bbbsa.org, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1904 and is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. The Pontotoc County chapter was organized in January 2004.

Faulkner said they currently have 12 volunteers for the program, but will be increasing that number.

"Currently we have 12 matches, but probably within the next month or two, we're going to be making three more," she said. "We match a volunteer who is over 18 with a child from usually a single parent family in our community. The ages are from 5 to 16."

Ada area resident Andy Hood is the big brother to 9-year-old Latta student Sheric Brown. Hood has been active with the program since December 2004.

"What I try to do is expose him to things that he normally wouldn't be exposed to," Hood said. "I think that's part of the goal. I try to show him that there are things you can do, like go to museums to look at the dinosaurs."

Hood listed some of the events he has taken his "little brother" to, which ranged from educational trips to movies.

"We've been to the Sam Noble Museum in Norman, the zoo, the bombing memorial in Oklahoma city, the Jasmine Moran Children's Museum in Seminole," Hood said. "We've even toured the Ada fire department, where Sheric got to sit in a fire truck and blow the horn. Last year we went to Frontier City and to an OU Football scrimmage, and we go to movies occasionally."

The time spent and places toured are generally up to the big brother or big sister.

"Usually I try to pick out something and he gives me input," Hood said. "He gives me feedback and then I'll pick out something and call his mother and make arrangements to pick him up. We try to go once a week. I've also been taking him to Wednesday night church, where he's in the Bible bowl and in the spring he plays soccer, so I pick him up for soccer practice and take him to games. We just hang out."

"They meet and they can do anything from going to the park and walking around to going to LazerZone to play games or go to Wal-Mart," Faulkner said. "We really like educational things and not just going out and spending money."

Faulkner said the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization also schedules activities for all of their participants once a month.

"We do match activities once a month for all of our matches," she said. "We got tickets to the Hornets-Lakers game this month and we also met NBA Hall of fame member Willis Reed. We've done scavenger hunts and just try to do different free activities for our matches to come to once a month."

According to Faulkner, volunteers interested in participating are given a rigorous screening before they can be accepted into the organization.

"You have to be 18 or over," she said. "We do a screening interview in the office, and then we do five reference checks, before doing an OSBI background check. After we complete our intake, we send the file off to our screening committee. We also do a home visit."

Upon passing the screening, Faulkner said the big brother or sister is then matched with a child sharing similar interests.

"We base on preference and interest," she said. "Andy's interest and Sheric's interest went well together. If I've got a football player coming in from ECU, then I'm going to definitely try to match him up with a child that's really into football or different sports."

She also said anyone of any age can be a mentor to the children.

"The college kids generally move away within four years," Faulkner said. "The older people in the community are usually more established and they're going to stay."

According to Faulkner, Children can be referred to the program in various ways and can stay in it until the age of 17.

"Their school teachers can refer them, their family members can refer them," she said. "They may hear from a friend that they have a big brother or big sister and they can just tell their mom they want one too."

For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters non-profit organization or to volunteer, contact Jillian Faulkner at (580)332-3474.

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