Big Brothers Big Sisters Expands in Northwoods

Jan 28, 2014

A mentoring program is expanding its reach in this part of the Northwoods.  

From left: Mary Kinnunen, Northwoods Development and Marketing Coordinator; Cookie Lough, Northwoods Match Specialist; and Craig Monson, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

The Eau Claire-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin is expanding to cover Oneida and Vilas counties.  It will also cover Taylor and Price counties.  The program matches up mentors and mentees, or “bigs” and “littles” to provide role models to kids who might be having a hard time. 

CEO Craig Monson says that mentor positive relationship can have real impacts. 

“Self confidence, that’s always some of the biggest ones.  They come out of their shell a little bit, they start having confidence to make better decisions because they  have a Big helping them.  A lot of it is just avoiding some of the decisions they have, because they may not have that role model out there.” 

A previous Northwoods chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters dissolved last year.  Staff members say many of the mentors from that program will carry over. 

Mentors make a one year commitment to volunteer at least an hour a week.  Match Specialist Cookie Lough explains volunteers are trained to know how to handle difficult situations. 

“They’re a mentor, they’re a role model.  They’re not a friend, they’re not a teacher, they’re not a parent.  They’re there to assist the child with growing up and doing the right thing.” 

The program hopes to serve about 40 kids in the four counties this year, but hopes to increase that over the next few years.      

The program currently has an office in Park Falls, but says a Rhinelander office is a possibility.