Coinciding with National Mentoring Month in January and in honor of their mentor “Bigs,” Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County (a program of the Family Service Agency) is hosting a Thank Your Mentor Day celebration and press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Shoreline Park Playground in Santa Barbara. Bigs and Littles will be in attendance as will Family Service Agency Executive Director Lisa Brabo, Ph.D., FSA board members and Big Brothers Big Sisters program staff.

During January, the agency is also conducting its Start Something BIG campaign with the goal of recruiting 30 mentors and 30 sponsors in 30 days. Right now, there are nearly 100 children throughout Santa Barbara County ready to meet a volunteer “Big.” Last year, community support for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program helped improve the lives of 220 children.

Big Brothers Big Sisters responds to the urgent needs of the community’s youth by offering powerful adult mentoring relationships for youth ages 7 to 18. Ongoing Match Support for volunteers, children and their families helps mentoring matches last long and remain strong.

A Public-Private Ventures study found that children enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are more likely than their peers to perform better in school, behave nonviolently, avoid illegal drugs and alcohol and have stronger family relationships. Locally in 2012, 86 percent of participating youth improved academic performance, 89 percent avoided delinquency, 87 percent improved their class participation and 81 percent reported a better attitude toward school.

It costs the agency $1,500 per match per year to provide professional volunteer recruitment, thorough background screenings, and comprehensively supported mentoring relationships. Volunteers and children spend at least six hours a month exploring shared interests and developing positive stable relationships. Volunteers enrich children’s lives by modeling healthy choices, providing educational enrichment and connections with their community. Professional staff provides individualized case management and hosts educational, enriching group activities.

For more information, please click here or call 805.965.1001 x256.

— Melinda Johansson is a development and marketing associate for the Family Service Agency.