Leaders of “Mentor Livingston”, which recently became an independent mentoring organization, say things aren’t deviating too much from their former affiliate, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBSA).

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Livingston County became Mentor Livingston as of July 1st. Executive Director Shari Davis-Schoech notes that the decision to separate from BBBSA was primarily driven by economics and local needs. According to Davis-Schoech, due to Livingston County’s dynamics, several of the organization’s mentor-rich resources are high schools and middle schools. She feels many of those students are very appropriate mentors for elementary school kids, which prompted the organization to begin working with since about 2001 to create leadership and community service opportunities for the mentor students. Because those students typically begin to focus on spring sports, BBBS of Livingston decided to end some of their programs around early spring time. Davis-Schoech says that’s what led BBBS of Livingston County to reconsider some of BBBSA’s requirements.

Davis-Schoech says, “They wanted what we call site-based programming, which is mostly in elementary schools, to go a whole year and there was a lot of pressure to continue those for a whole school year and through the summer, but then they (participants and their mentors) weren’t allowed to see each other during the summer which kind of makes no sense to us.” Some of the organization’s site-based programming includes “lunch buddies”, which typically meet twice a month, and the after school program “big futures”, which includes high school kids as mentors.

Another issue that led the local organization to disaffiliate was financial obligations that have been increasing much more lately, even by thousands of dollars for the small agency. She says Livingston County’s group had to make some really hard decisions but ultimately felt disaffiliation was in their best interest in order to continue to serve the community in a quality manner. Davis-Schoech says the group is still a nonprofit with the same federal identification number, as well as the same goals and many of the same events; but now are simply an independent organization.

What they’re focused on, according to Davis-Schoech, always has been and always will be supporting positive relationship between mentors and program participants in Livingston County. (DK)