Dave Greene is the director of the new Big Brothers Big Sisters community donation center at 4650 N. Flowing Wells Road, which opened in September. To raise money for the youth-mentoring organization, the center takes donations of clothing and household items; Savers stores then pay Big Brothers Big Sisters for the donations. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, the center will celebrate Holiday Donation Day. Bring donations; have some hot cocoa; and find out how to become a mentor. In January, the organization is holding a reunion of former volunteers and clients. For more info on the organization and the center, visit www.tucsonbigs.org.
How does the organization benefit from the center?
We work in conjunction with Savers stores. We collect the clothing and household items for their stores, and they provide us funding for our mentoring program. It really helps us, especially in these times. We've been doing that with them since 2006, before we had a donation center. We just couldn't ... operate our own stores. It takes so much money and capital we didn't have, so it's nice we could have this partnership where we could do part of it, and they could in turn give us money to help us with our programming.
Is 1-on-1 mentoring still a traditional part of the organization?
The core of what we do is exactly the same: We pair an adult with a child. We have two different types of programming now, one that we call our community-based program, where the adult goes to the child's home and picks them up for outings on the weekend or during the week. We also have what we call school-based programs, where, 1-on-1, an adult works with a child at school. We do that at (the) Flowing Wells (Unified School District). Most of our mentors are screened so they can work in the schools, or even on occasion, when there are things that may come up outside of school, they can participate with that child there.
Is Flowing Wells the only school district you work with?
No, we work with the Sunnyside School District as well. We try to target schools that have a high need. We'd love to work with more school districts, but right now, this is what we can do with our current staff.
Do the funds from Savers mainly support staffing?
Predominately, yes ... (staffing to help) recruit mentors for children. Lately, we have a situation where we have a lot of boys on our waiting list.
Do you have other plans for the center?
We call it a community building. We want to use it as a place where not only do we collect clothing and household goods, but we can have staff there, and help recruit the children or the mentors, and actually have a place where the community can have an event. ... If someone wants to be a mentor, they can come right to this area and find out how to get involved.
In the past, anyone had to go to your downtown building?
Right, but this gives us another venue for outreach, especially to the Flowing Wells area, and parking is accessible.
Is this a sign of growth?
That's our hope. That's where our focus is, that this become a hub, especially in this district. Our key to that is to get people knowing we are here, and for the staff to be accessible. Visibility is another thing. Downtown is nice for what it is, but this visibility will offer a lot more for this program. The building is bright-green.
Is the mentoring aspect of the organization still viable today?
We had Public/Private Ventures do a study on Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was a nice thing to have. It's great to go out and have fun with a child for a while, but there's a lot more involved than that. We require a year commitment from our volunteers, but the reason it develops into a bigger relationship, as the study showed, is that children in the program mentored at least a year increase in academics and decrease in the initiation of negative behaviors, like drug use, and a child's social interactions improved. The twist to this is that mentors themselves also found an increase in positive social interactions, too. It's nice for us to see that the benefits are for more than just the child—it helps our volunteers, too.