"Bigs with Badges" unites influential officials and kids in community
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Lake Michigan Region is working to recruit local law enforcement officers and first responders to their mentorship program. The “Bigs with Badges” initiative is an effort to build lasting relationships between law enforcement.
“It is the opportunity for the county, and for the county police department to build relationships, build bridges, so often we hear police and the community do not come together, but this opportunity right here shows they come together,” says Debra Walker, Big Brother Big Sisters Outreach Coordinator.
The “Bigs with Badges” initiative pairs up these leaders for a one-on-one relationship with kids in the community. The Charles Black Community Center opens their doors to these friendships and offers them a space to connect.
The center, also hoping, their after-school program will benefit from having influential officials around the complex. St. Joseph County Sherriff, Bill Redman, and South Bend police officer, Anthony Pearson, both have “littles.” They say connecting with these children now is imperative for a strong relationship in the future.
“We love interacting with our local youth and giving them the opportunity to see us not only as police officers but human beings as well,” says Sherriff Redman.
“I just think it is important for we as law enforcement officers to show a positive front so these kids will be able to see there is some positivity to these relationships starting out small so when they get old they will not have biases towards us,” says Officer Pearson.
And for the littles, the friendships mean the world.
“I get to see him on Wednesdays and because he is my big brother and I love him,” says Jace.
Officer Shepherd and Jace have been matches in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for three years.
The friendship for them means getting together to play games, work on school work, and for Jace…getting outside.
“Probably coming out here and just running around and feeling the fresh air,” says Jace.
But more importantly, they both enjoy being there for one another.
“It is just fun to hang out with a younger person and share what you have done with their day and if you can help in anyway share with them some guidance. That is what we do,” says Officer Shepherd.
Kamya and Ka’marre are sisters by birth, but best friends by choice. The two sisters have both been in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for around 2 years. And now, the girls and their matches are a package deal.
“My favorite part if watching her learn new books and her reading get better, and she always makes me laugh. I love seeing her because she is always going to make me smile,” says big, Officer Cynthia.
“I like the hugs, Bella is always giving me hugs and just to help her with her homework and see her progress,” says Big, Officer Mary.
And the program is not just limited to law enforcement officers. Big Brothers Big Sisters encourages firefighters, teachers, first responders, all of those leading in the community to consider being involved.
If you are interested in becoming a big, visit here.
If you are interested in Charles Black community center’s after school program, visit here.