Big Brothers Shortage

Chronic lack of male mentors
A year ago, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta launched its fiftieth year while facing a major dilemma. The organization, which serves about 3,100 children, had a list of 1,100 boys waiting for Big Brothers. There was no such backlog for Sisters; in fact, an excess of women were volunteering for girls. By year’s end, thanks to a major awareness campaign, the deficit had shrunk to 525. But finding male mentors is still an uphill battle.

“Most men don’t realize how easy it is to help a child by just being in their life,” says chapter CEO Janice McKenzie-Crayton, whose own daughter has special needs and has been paired with a Big Sister for the past several years. “Being a Big Brother doesn’t require any special skill or qualifications.”

Men seem more intimidated by the commitment. But the minimum time requirement is only four hours per month, and any adult who can pass a background check is eligible to become a “Big.” BBBSMA actually discourages Bigs from spending much money on their Littles. Most kids just want someone who will shoot hoops or drive them to the library.

Winston Warrior, a senior manager of marketing at Cox Media Group, has served on BBBSMA’s board since 2009 but last summer became a Big himself, teaming up with twelve-year-old Janard. The duo have visited Six Flags, seen the Falcons play—even hit up a barber shop for joint haircuts. “He has so much to tell me when he gets in the car, and it’s just great,” says Warrior. “There are so many Janards out there that deserve someone to be a Big Brother to them.”

Though BBBSMA asks Bigs to give two years, relationships often last much longer. The founders of Flip Burger Boutique, Ron Stewart and Barry Mills, met as “siblings” and have now paired up in a successful business venture with chef Richard Blais. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Mills paid it forward by taking on his own Little Brother.

Illustration by Brian Stauffer