Big Brothers Big Sisters Growing

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County has a new leader.

And the organization is growing.

The new leader is Tara Gilts.

Gilts took over recently as the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, which she says is now serving three other counties besides Athens.

"Our agency serves children in Athens County, but we've also expanded a bit into Washington County, Meigs and Vinton County.  So, we have a number of children on our waiting list in those communities.  So, one of our top goals is to find volunteers in those areas to serve those kids that are sitting on our waiting list," says Gilts. "We also have a lot of boys that need male mentors in their life. That's the group that we have the hardest time attracting are male volunteers.  We typically have about 50 boys that our on our waiting list at any given time. So, that's another top priority is to find male mentors to work with those children."

Gilts says her organization serves about 200 children annually.

"We have a community-based program which is our traditional program that people I think might be more familiar with, the 21 years or older volunteers," says Gilts. "We also have a school program that we're really proud of.  We have high school students in five area schools who are mentoring elementary students.  So, it's a great volunteer opportunity for those kids.  They're developing leadership skills.  They're learning kind of what it takes to work with a child and to make that kind of volunteer commitment in their community.  So, those are our two primary programs that we offer."

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers programs and services "to make a positive difference in the lives of area youth through professionally supported relationships with mentors and volunteers."

"To volunteer you have to be 21 years or older, at least in our community-based program.  You also have to commit to spending a miniumum of one year with a child and spending a few hours a week with that child," says Gilts. "Most of our mentors will say that they've taken as much from the program as they've given of themselves.  They learn a lot about themseleves and they find it incredibly rewarding that they're able to have such a strong impact on a child in their own community."