By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama celebrated its 35th anniversary with a reception and award ceremony at Exchange Bank on June 8.
Big Brothers Big Sisters offers one-on-one mentoring services to children facing adversity. The mentors encourage the children toward educational success and higher aspirations, while teaching them to avoid risky behaviors.
The reception program began with David Ford welcoming everyone to the event and thanking all the individuals and businesses that made the event possible.
Ford went on to talk about the history of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama. The program was started in the area in 1982 under the guidance of Sonny Polarski, a Birmingham Big Brother who saw the need in northeast Alabama. To make the program possible, Polarski worked with Jon Costa and Marie Franklin Johnson, all three of whom served on the first board of directors. In 1985, the agency partnered with United Way. In 1993, the organization decided that it was necessary to expand.
“That was the time when we were seeing more young girls being raised by their dads alone,” said Ford. “We saw more little boys being raised by their mother alone. And we saw that these people needed to have a mentor of their same sex.”
Ford went on to thank the program’s past directors for growing the program and making it possible to help the 257 children served last year.
Current Big Brothers Big Sisters Director Valarie Shannon gave out several awards.
The Standing Ovation, given to an organization that is a big supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, was awarded to Exchange Bank. Ricky Ray accepted the award on behalf of the bank.
The Inspire Award, given to an organization that inspired Big Brothers Big Sisters, was given to the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.
The Legacy Award, given to a mentoring couple, was given to Richard and Kathleen Whiteside.
The Community Impact Award, given to an organization that is a big supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, was awarded to the United Way of Etowah County. Christi Mayo accepted the award on behalf of the agency.
The Big Impact Award, given to an organization that is a big supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, was awarded to Alabama Power. Tony Smith accepted on behalf of the company.
Drew Owens, past Big Brothers Big Sisters president, spoke to the crowd about the organization’s new campaign, a crowdfunding endeaver. Instead of asking for money, though, Big Brothers Big Sisters is gathering e-mail addresses. The people that give their email addresses will be ambassadors for the organization, spreading what Big Brothers Big Sisters does with the community by posting on social media.
After the award ceremony, the crowd enjoyed some cake to celebrate the 35th birthday of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama.