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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida Pensacola Chamber Ribbon Cutting

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida Pensacola Chamber Ribbon Cutting

Hello everybody and good morning. I’m here with Paula Shell, the President and
CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Thank you so much for inviting us to celebrate
with you all with your beautiful brand new building and location. You had the ribbon cutting this morning. We did. and a reception. Let’s jump right in and Paula first lets start
of by talking about you. You’re the President and CEO. How did all of this happen for you to get
to this place? Wow, you know I’ve been the CEO going on 22
years and it’s kind of flown by. You know, I’ve always had a passion for children
and didn’t ever think though that I would end up in this capacity or in this role but
prior to being here I worked actually at Lakeview Center, which is the local mental health agency. And I managed group homes for adolescent boys
and girls and I did that for about 12 years and it just was time, you know, you just,
I was ready for a change. Of course I’m going to tell my age a little
bit but you know you look for jobs back then in the paper. So PNJ, gotta love ya, in the classifieds,
and they had posted a position for the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I actually told my friend, “That is my job. I’m gonna be there”, and here I am 22 years
later. So that was Lakeview for 12 years and now
how long has it been that you have been here at Big Brothers Big Sisters? 22 years. 22 years. Yeah. That is amazing, well, and you have seen so
many changes. I have. With the program. You’ve seen so many changes with the community
and with the kids that you all serve. In transitioning out of that, that’s an enormous
amount of experience for you to bring to the organization, which is probably one of the
reasons why it is grown to what it is and you now are in this amazing new facility. What are some of the things that Big Brothers
Big Sisters do because I know that there are many people that don’t know exactly what you
all do. Whether you are, you know, I know some have
said, “oh yeah, their a great organization that connects bigs and littles”, that what
you all do at the core, but there’s so much more than just pairing people together. Let’s go into that. Yeah, you know, it really is about impacting
a life to change them. A lot of the kids that we work with come from
primarily single parent households. Now we do look at situations on a case by
case basis, and it might be a dual parent household. It could be grand parents raising their grand
children. It could be a foster family, but the primary
focus for the bulk of our relationships are single parents. Mainly single moms. We have a few dads in there but mainly single
moms and that is our focus and that hasn’t changed. I think if anything that you could look up
data to say that single parent households have probably even grown over the years so
we certaintly haven’t seen a difference there in the trends. What we have seen a difference in is the grandparents
raising the grandchildren so it wasn’t as prevalent way back when I first started as
it is now and what we’re seeing is not single or not grandma or grandpa, back to single
grandma who is raising grandchildren because her son and or daughter are incarcerated and
are in prison. That is a huge trend that we are seeing. Oh okay so you’re saying single grandmother,
single mother, so is this generational in many cases? Yeah, I think maybe so. You know and I, its umm the grandparents because
a lot of them that we have talked to never thought that they would be in this position
at this time in their life. You know but their not going to not step up
to help their grandchildren. So we became very passionate about this because
we’re seeing it go on the rise that we decided to partner with Council on the Aging and collaborate
with how we can help their foster grandparents. They have support groups that they do with
grandparents who are raising grandchildren. So we came in and presented to them and said
we wanna help you and I personally went and spoke to that group and you would have thought
we had given the grandparents a million dollars. They just need somebody to help them and so
we’re very passionate about that population. I don’t think it has changed the trends but
that’s probably the biggest that we are seeing is that grandparents raising their grandchildren. Yeah, you know one of the joys that used to
be a grandparent was that you know when you were finished with them you could give them
back to the parents but now these grandparents are the full time caretakers and even sometimes
other extended family members like maybe aunts? Right. Do you see a lot of that. Yes, we do and you know I always give this
as an example just because I’m matched with a little and Hope and I have been matched
for six years and Hope’s being raised by a great-grandfather. Wow. Great-grandfather at 89 years old. Great-grandchild is being taken care of by
a Great-Grandfather. There are all situations out there but those
grandparents are very special to us that we really wanna see if we can step up and help
and that’s what we’re seeing. I mean back to the original question about
me, I mean, I you know, this is what I always wanted to do. I loved the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I mean what’s more important than a relationship
with somebody and how you could make somebody better and show them just through simple actions. Right. Simple activities that you do together. That can truly just change their whole life
moving forward and umm, so that’s what it’s all about. We didn’t talk about this before the interview,
I know that you may not be able to give me an exact number but any idea on exactly how
many littles you’re serving right now in this area? So well, I’ll give you the statistics from
last year. Last year, we served 660 kids in a one to
one relationship. Our goal this year is to tip over that 700
mark. So we’re probably right now about 100 matches
shy of meeting that goal. That is so many children. It is a lot of kids and there’s a lot that
need it in this community. The statistic that I throw out there is, it’s
1 in 3 kids will grow up without somebody else in their life, that other person and
in Escambia County alone that’s over 22,000 children. In Northwest Florida that’s over 55,000 children. Can you imagine just not having that person
that you can reach out to that would say, you know, good job or encourage you to say
you can do it, you can go to college, you can graduate. You know so that’s sad to me. I know that there’s so many different circumstances
where a Big can provide an impact on a little and you know really like to touch on this
just a little bit because it’s not so black and white on what scenario would benefit the
child. Say for instance, you have some children that
their primary caretaker is now their grandmother or grandparents and then you also have some
that are with their single parent or maybe both parents and then you may have a maybe
a parent that is a great parent but they’re just working so much to make ends meet that
they don’t have a lot of time to spend with their child. I think it’s important touch on that there
are children with great parents also that still can benefit from this program. Can we touch on that? Yeah you know it’s not all the doom and gloom
type stories. There’s a gamut of scenarios as far as our
littles are concerned. Yes, there are some wonderful parents out
there. Wonderful parents that are doing their best
to keep their family moving. They have a job but they just need a little
extra guidance. A lot of them are single mothers that don’t
have a male influence in their life so they’re raising a young boy. So they want that person to step in and help
grow their son to be a good man. So there are great parents and we all can
benefit. I’ve benefited from it. My mom passed away when I was 18 years old
at a time where you needed that support and if it hadn’t of been for my grandmother who
stepped in. So we all can say that there’s somebody in
our life, so yeah. You know I just wanted to touch on that because
we have so many great programs in Escambia County and in the city of Pensacola and it’s
not a negative to take advantage of these services and Big Brothers Big Sisters is a
prime example of that. It’s not a negative if you wanna get your
child, your own child involved in the program. Now you have this new facility, that’s what
we are here to celebrate today so let’s talk about the new facility and the Bear Family
Foundation, their involvment with it. You know it’s been a wonderful morning. We have actually have been in the facility
since May, May 13 is when we moved in, but it was time to have that officialness around
the facility itself. We are currently in a 1.5 million dollar capital
campaign. it’s our 30th anniversary year and things
have just fallen in place, like I shared this morning with everybody at the ribbon cutting
this morning. It’s just we never done anything like that
before to be able to expand our programs and services. So it not just about this building and bricks
and mortor but its about what we’ll be able to do to serve more kids or to expand on the
quality of what we are already doing for these matches because being able to have the space
to do that. That campaign is our guide moving forward
to hopefully get us to the point where we’re going to be able to that. And we’re in here and we’re starting to do
some of those elements. Amazing. So this morning was the official unveiling
of the Bear Family Foundation Center for Hope and people came around and toured and took
a look at everything that we’ve got happening here and how we are all set up. It’s been wonderful. They have given us a half a million dollar
gift. It’s a matching gift. So anything that we raise is matched dollar
for dollar up to a half a million dollars. It’s exciting to be able to go out and share
with people and tell a potential donor, anything that you give to this campaign and this project
is going to be matched dollar for dollar. And that’s kind of like, the’re like, Oh. Yeah double their money. That’s a good deal. We’re excited about it. We’ve just through that gift there’s been
other wonderful partners that have come to the table and have stepped up and have given
to the campaign. We’re not done. We’ve just tipped over the one million mark
and we still have a long way to go. We need everybody that believes in our mission
and one of the walls in the building will be called our defenders of potential donor
wall. So at the end of the project everybody who
has given is going to be listed on that wall. Community involvement, volunteers, let’s get
into, you all have an amazing staff here and it’s what keeps everything moving but you
couldn’t do it without all of your volunteers and your bigs. Absolutely. Let’s touch on that because, what is the best
way for someone to get involved, if they want to participate? So before we started I shared with you the
easy thing to remember is our phone number. So it’s 433-KIDS. So you just walk away with that and look as
you’re dialing but it’s 5437. 433-5437 or 433-KIDS and just give us a call
and any of the MAPS specialists can help with somebody if the’re interested in becoming
a big brother or big sister. And then I guess you all also involved in
social media. Yeah, so we’re very active on facebook, you
can follow us there. Instagram, twitter, and thats about all I
know. My young staff can handle the other stuff
that goes with that. That’s my knowledge, right there. I’m going to throw the number up and the website
up again. If you’re interensted in becoming a big, a
volunteer, I’m sure you need volunteers for all sorts of things. Yeah, it’s not, if you can’t be a big, we
have other places for you. And then if someone also want to donate to
the cause, they can contact you there. Paula, this was been wonderful. You’ve taught me so much. We went way longer than I had anticipated
but there’s just so much good stuff to talk about. Anything you want to say before we finish. Get connected with it, we love ya! Alright awesome, well thank you again Paula. Thank you everyone. If you have any questions, throw them down
in the comments but what I would recommend is go ahead and give them a call at 433-KIDS. Alright Good bye!

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