Originally Published: December 1, 2016 6:02 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Police have spent years trying to build positive relationships with youngsters, with varying degrees of success.
But Big Brothers/Big Sisters has come up with a new program tailor-made to smooth that process. Called “Bigs in Blue,” it matches police officers with school-aged kids.
How it works
“Bigs in Blue is a national campaign,” said Michael Smith, Yavapai BBBS recruitment coordinator, and locally, “right now, we have Bigs in the Prescott Valley Police Department, and we also have one Big that works for the (Yavapai-Prescott) Tribal Police Department.” Smith noted that Prescott Police Chief Debora Black has expressed interest in being a Big Sister.
“Bigs are in uniform, during their shifts, and they’re going to see their (Little) in a school-based match,” Smith said, which is different, because they might have to leave for an emergency call.
“That’s kind of cool, actually, for the kid. “Oh, my Big’s got to go save somebody,’” he added.
But the main point, Smith said, is that the Little knows that a police officer comes to school to see him, and cares about him. And, he said, the students as a whole get to see that “officer are people, too.”
The nature of a school-based match means that the Big visits during lunch and recess times.
“The opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child”
Prescott Valley Deputy Chief of Police James Edelstein has been involved in the program for almost two years as a school match with 13-year-old Dylan.
“I would get there, usually about ten or fifteen minutes before school let out,” he said, “and we’d go throw the football around, or play games in the library, or just kind of hang out and talk about things.”
The once-a-week visit worked out so well that now Dylan’s a “family match” and spends time with Edelstein, his wife, and son, outside of school.
The Bigs in Blue program also helps to fill the funding gap for school resource officers, a useful get-to-know cops technique that has not had the level of funding it did at one time.
“We have another five police officers here (at PVPD) who are Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” he said. “who are going to be visiting kids at school.”
Support from the Sheriff
Sheriff Scott Mascher, long a proponent of the “No-shave November” movement, this year made the event a fundraiser for YBBBS.
He offered YCSO employees the option to pay at least $20 for the right not to shave for the month.
As of Nov. 21, the agency had 151 employees involved in the campaign, with many giving “well beyond” the minimum amount, spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said.
Because of the positive response, Mascher extended the deal into “No-shave December,” for another minimum $20 contribution.
“We are currently just shy of $5,800 in direct giving and donations continue to come in almost every day,” D’Evelyn said. “The Sheriff would like to hit $10,000” by the time the event ends.
That $5,800 means five children will be matched with a Big, said Juliana Goswick, President and CEO of Yavapai BBBS.
“I am very pleased with the response by our employees in this fundraising effort to help youth throughout Yavapai County,” Mascher said. “It was my pleasure to extend the effort through December for an additional donation.”
Gala raises enough to match nearly 375 Littles with Bigs
In a fundraising gala held Nov. 19, Goswick said, Yavapai BBBS raised enough money to match 375 Littles with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, a couple or a family.
Equally exciting, she said, was that, thanks to a presentation given by Edelstein at the gala, 10 people came to her and said they wanted to become Bigs.
“We always like to connect our mission to our community, and that they’re inspired to step up and share the gift of time” is “a beautiful thing,” she said.
If you would like to mentor a youngster through Yavapai Big Brothers/Big Sisters, all the information is on their website at azbigs.org.