After more than 60 years in Hastings, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is making a major change.
“We’re disaffiliating from the national organization and we’re doing that to be more flexible, more efficient, more to respond to community needs and it will also help us keep any fundraising here in the local community,” said executive director Brady Rhodes.
During a special event Thursday at The Lark, the organization unveiled its new logo and new identity as Mentoring Works.
“It plays off the idea that mentoring is a win for the community,” Rhodes said. “Mentoring works for a community. There’s a ton of research that says it’s the best bang for your buck in terms of an educational investment and delivers the strongest results in terms of self confidence, school attachment, school retention and academic achievement.”
Cara Kimball, board president, told those assembled for the announcement Thursday that the changes being implemented will give the program a more local flavor, with all donations going directly to aid local efforts to impact children in the community.
“We’ve had a few questions about why we’re moving from Big Brothers Big Sisters to Mentoring Works and we’re really excited to tell you about that today,” she said. “We have loved and appreciated all of our past efforts with Big Brothers Big Sisters, so we thought long and hard over many many board meetings about whether or not we should stick with Big Brothers Big Sisters or venture out into our own community-based hometown mentoring organization. The decision was to go with our own hometown mentoring organization, which we’re calling Mentoring Works.
“We really wanted to do that because we want to be able to say that all of our hard-earned dollars and efforts are staying right here in our community with our kids to help make a difference.”
Over the next three months, Rhodes said the organization will be changing paperwork, logos, official documents, accounts and even its website to the new name. In the meantime, it will be known as “Mentoring Works formerly known as Big Brothers Big Sisters” to help anyone searching for the agency.
Rhodes said the change wasn’t necessarily an easy one for the board but it was needed.
“Disaffiliating from the national organization was a tough move but a bold move and I think the right one for the board to take,” he said. “It lets us be more responsive to the local community.”
That’s not to say Rhodes and the board of directors are discounting the 60 years that Big Brothers Big Sisters operated in Hastings.
Rhodes said the organization was started in Hastings as a way to help boys who didn’t have fathers in the home to have a “father-like figure.” In those early years, they served about 30 boys a year.
Boys would leave the program once the mother had remarried and there was a new father figure in the home.
Over the years, Rhodes said the organization has had bad times and good. There was the merging with the Big Sisters organization and even a few times when the organization almost closed its doors.
“That’s happened a couple times but the community has rallied and kept it open,” Rhodes said.
In his research, Rhodes said he was able to go through decades of board meeting minutes, financial records and met or got in contact with many former board members.
“We got these narratives that tell the story of people being concerned citizens and interested in the community and thinking long term,” Rhodes said. “I think when they started this they thought, ‘It is going to cost us more money if these kids end up having a difficult adolescence and commit crimes and go to the state juvenile detention and it would be more expensive so lets take care of them now and do the right thing.’ So that’s been neat to see.”
A big portion of Thursday’s event was dedicated to honoring that past through a timeline and recognition of past board and staff members.
Longtime board member Bob Kettlitz presented a math model on how much money has been saved in the community by giving money to the mentoring organization rather than paying for young people to go through legal system.
As they look to the future, Rhodes said Mentoring Works will provide the same great mentoring programming without the restrictions put on them by the national Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
One unique aspect of the Hastings agency that will continue and fits perfectly with the Mentoring Works name is the Beyond School Walls program which gives high school students mentors in the workplace in the areas of manufacturing and health care.
“It’s really unique nationwide and so we can now spend time on that and strength that,” Rhodes said.
Additionally he said the agency will be able to put more focus on developing the high school mentors in addition to putting focus on the children being mentored.
Mentoring Works will also be able to more freely expand its services farther into the Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster county area.
Craig Kautz, superintendent at Hastings Public Schools, said he welcomes the switch to a more local program emphasis. The impact it has left on the community through the years has been both significant and undeniable, he said.
“I’m excited about the change,” Kautz said. “The fact that Big Brothers Big Sisters is now becoming Mentoring Works and an entirely local entity is fantastic. That means more of the resources are going to stay right here in town, and believe me, our kids need them! Whether it’s Mentoring Works or Teammates or some other organization where you as an adult can spend some time with a child and help that child to be a better person: Do it! It’s hard work but it’s also one of the most rewarding things an adult can ever do.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters — now Mentoring Works — represents how much the city of Hastings cares about kids. This is an organization that depends upon volunteers who take their time to work with kids and try to make a difference in those kids’ lives. Research shows us that mentoring does work, that in fact a significant other in the life of a child really helps those children to be more resilient and increases their chance of success.”
The agency is currently looking to recruit new high school and college mentors for the fall in addition to mentors for the Beyond School Walls program. For more information, visit mentoringworksne.org.