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Kiwanians hear about Big Brothers Big Sisters program

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Monett has been successful in its first two years. The number of children served is slated to double in the coming year, reported program coordinator Don Tuck in speaking at this week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.

"Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks serves 1,300 children," Tuck said. "Volunteers provide a role model, often like a parent, and serve as mentors to children who are often at-risk."

Tuck described one boy who was acting out some anger issues. In exploring the child's home life, it was discovered both of the boy's parents were convicted felons. Volunteers provided the boy with support and direction, helping him to overcome his environment and become a successful person.

Monett has a school-based program, unlike Springfield, for seventh and eighth graders. Tuck said the program currently serves 30 students.

Beginning in August, Big Brothers Big Sisters will expand to include fifth and sixth graders. An additional 15 to 20 volunteers will be needed to meet with participants one hour a week. The budget for the program will also expand from $4,000 to $8,000. The program is fully financed by donations.

With the seventh and eighth grade students, volunteers have been meeting with them after school. The "Bigs" often play board games with the students, help with homework and talk about life experiences. Volunteers to help the younger students will be "lunch buddies," sharing a meal once a month. All volunteers are carefully screened and given background checks.

Tuck works out of the Springfield office and supervises at a distance. The mentors meet once a week at Monett Middle School after classes on Tuesdays. Volunteers working with younger children will meet on Thursdays.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is organized in Monett to run during the school year, largely due to transportation issues, Tuck said. The volunteers can take children to sporting events year-round as an activity.

As the school year ends, all the volunteers will have a joint activity and discuss how to make the program better, Tuck added.

Tuck said he has enjoyed his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters. His career spanned 31 years as a middle school administrator and a stint as assistant principal at Monett High School. Before taking on his latest duties, Tuck ran the Missouri Options program for at-risk students at the Southwest Area Career Center.

Tuck was introduced by Brad Hanson, who served as program chairman. Gordon Brown, the club's president-elect, presided at the meeting.

In club news, coordinators of the duck race at Monett's Strawberry Festival reported the event went well for the first year. They expressed appreciation for those who bought tickets and thus supported programs to help children.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays a for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.

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