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Big Brothers Big Sisters moves into City Heights

Artist Erick De La Rosa guided big and little brothers and sisters in painting this canvas to be hung at the new office

Artist Erick De La Rosa guided big and little brothers and sisters in painting this canvas to be hung at the new office

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County is moving its headquarters into the City Heights Center (aka Price Center) on Fairmount and University by the end of the year. Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Deborah Condon says the organization moved because more than 50% of the kids live in or near the Mid-City area.

“It makes sense to be in a neighborhood location near public transportation,” Condon said. “We have so many more interview rooms. Families won’t have to wait.” Its previous location off Miramar Road was in a warehouse district, far from the families it serves.

Big Brothers Big Sisters matches youth with adults in mentorship pairs (knows as Bigs and Littles) that takes on a big brother little brother or big sister little sister type of relationship.

Jan Bourgeois, who’s been a Big Brothers Big Sisters board member for 25 years, attests to the positive influence Bigs can have on Littles. Her husband died when her two boys were five and three years old. In need of male role models, Bourgeois brought her sons to Big Brothers Big Sisters where her sons were matched with adult males who shared her sons’ interests. More than 30 years later (her sons are now 41 and 39), Bourgeois still gets emotional describing how her oldest son came out of his shell and opened up to his Big. She says he would get so excited to see his Big that she knew it was having a positive effect. He’s now an executive for a company that does mergers and acquisitions. Her younger son is a high school teacher. Both remain in contact with their Bigs.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is in the midst of recruiting Bigs, particularly men and Spanish speakers. Of the 1,700 Littles served each year, 75% are boys but only 25% of the Bigs are men. They will match women with boys but only up to age 11.

At any given time up to 400 Littles are waiting to be matched with Bigs. About 20% don’t match up because of language barriers. To reduce the waiting time the program is looking to increase its pool of Spanish speaking Bigs from just under 300 to 500.

Wells Fargo and its San Diego Area President, Ernesto Arredondo, is part of the recruiting effort. Arredondo says it’s easy for Wells Fargo to just write a check, but “we need human capital, we need people to help.” So as a Big Brothers Big Sisters board member he is actively recruiting Bigs who will be able to “connect kids with the parents at home,” through Manos a la Obra, a program to recruit Spanish speaking Bigs.

To be a volunteer you must be at least 18 years of age and commit to the program for one year.

Big Sister Sigrid Nelson and Little Sister Saiyana show their art skills at the opening of Big Brothers Big Sisters new location in City Heights

Big Sister Sigrid Nelson and Little Sister Saiyana show their art skills at the opening of Big Brothers Big Sisters new location in City Heights

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