BBBS to re-open office for Mecosta, Osceola counties

NEW MATCH: Alex and her "Big" Kaytlyn Sheldon, both of Reed City, were paired through Mid Michigan Big Brothers Big Sisters in October. Mid Michigan BBBS is opening a satellite office for Mecosta and Osceola counties. The branch that previously served the two counties closed in October. (Courtesy photo)
NEW MATCH: Alex and her “Big” Kaytlyn Sheldon, both of Reed City, were paired through Mid Michigan Big Brothers Big Sisters in October. Mid Michigan BBBS is opening a satellite office for Mecosta and Osceola counties. The branch that previously served the two counties closed in October. (Courtesy photo)

EVART – Four months after new national standards caused the Mecosta-Osceola Big Brothers Big Sisters office to close, Mid Michigan Big Brothers Big Sisters is reaching out to re-open the branch.

Caseworker Scott Cherry will serve Mecosta and Osceola counties from an office in the Evart Downtown Development building, located at 107 N. River St. in Evart. For more than 30 years, Cherry has served locally as a foster care and delinquency worker, a school social worker, an adjunct instructor of social work and sociology and the director of a foster care/adoption program.

Mid Michigan BBBS has provided youth mentoring in Clare, Roscommon and Gladwin counties for more than 30 years, and executive director Carol Gage is excited to bring the service back to Mecosta and Osceola counties, although it will be a gradual process. The Mecosta-Osceola office will operate as a satellite of the greater Mid Michigan BBBS operation.

“We won’t be able to start anywhere near what the other program was doing when they left,” Gage said. “There’s a tremendous need over there. It’s a great area, with a lot of great opportunities. We’re excited.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national organization that pairs youth facing adversity with adult mentors in the community. The previous Mecosta-Osceola branch, led by John Calabrese, shut down in October after the national BBBS council established new higher education requirements for staff, among other higher standards. The local branch did not have the funding needed to offer higher education for its employees or to pay qualified candidates.

The 12 matches previously facilitated by Mecosta-Osceola BBBS were closed along with the office. Two of those matches rejoined under Mid Michigan BBBS, Gage said. “Big sister” Kaytlyn Sheldon and “little sister” Alex, both of Reed City were matched in October.

Erik Little was a board member for the previous Mecosta-Osceola BBBS branch, and he has joined in the movement to restart the branch as the president of its advisory board.

“Our previous chapter was completely shut down, and then Mid Michigan BBBS was willing to step in,” Little said. “We have local business owners and officials who have a pulse on the community and know what we can do to support kids.”

Having a BBBS office in Evart will create a direct connection between BBBS and the local community, Little said, which is important in fundraising efforts and reaching out to children.

Mecosta-Osceola BBBS plans to hold its annual Bowl For Kids’ Sake fundraiser in March; all money raised will go to the local branch. Look for more details on the event in an upcoming edition of the Pioneer.

In the meantime, BBBS would like to see more adults volunteer as “Bigs” for the organziation. There is an extensive screening process for “Bigs,” which includes a background check, references, an interview and a home check. If those steps are completed, BBBS then matches the “Big” with a “Little.”

For more information on how to become a Big or to further support Mecosta-Osceola BBBS, contact Gage at (989) 386-9304.