Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Mean Isolation - How to Volunteer During COVID-19

By: Casey Nunes

My name is Casey, and I am a recruitment specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. My job, essentially, is to create a community and keep them engaged. I am constantly working with education systems, private sector employee resource groups, housing units, and nonprofit organizations in youth development to increase awareness of the need for mentorship. I have the very unique opportunity to be active in the community and meet families that have benefited from the program in younger years. I’ve met dozens of mentors who immediately open their phones to show me their Little in cap and gown, beaming with pride and often tearing up in front of me to say how much they personally have been forever changed by their experience. While Big Brothers Big Sisters asks for one year of commitment, the people I meet understand that relationships do not end after 12 months. I’ve met BBBS alumni who have been with their Little for a decade, multi-generational Bigs, or, in one instance, a man who had just visited his Big of 40 years in Texas.



The youth in our program come from all different family structures, all different backgrounds, and many live with the most vulnerable population in this pandemic: aging grandparents. Many Littles rely on now-closed schools to provide free breakfast and lunch. Many parents also work at jobs deemed essential such as grocery store clerks, janitorial staff, home health care aids, child care workers, fast food employees, rideshare drivers, overnight factory workers – people we depend on every day. With the uncertainty Littles and their families are facing in the age of COVID-19, we need volunteers to stand up now, more than ever. Though we are all navigating how to deal with isolation and social distancing, every child needs a mentor, and every adult should be prepared to give back in whatever way they can. You can read more about how BBBS is making a social impact while keeping a social distance here.

Lindsey Scott, a Big Sister in our community based program, sits on our Leadership Board and recruitment committee. She wrote to us about being a Big:

“I really wanted to make a direct impact in the community that I live in, and I feel that being a Big is the best way for me to make that impact. I have not only built a strong relationship with [my Little Sister], but also with her mom. This experience has been a two-way street. When I have my outings with [my Little Sister], I know she learns so much from me, but I learn a lot from her, as well. She helps me put my own stressors into perspective and see the bigger picture about giving back. I truly believe that having a mentor or someone that you can rely on consistently for guidance and support is key to getting to positive outcomes for all kids and that this organization sets us up for this success!”

One of our Match Support Specialists passed along this quote from a Little in our program. When asked “What has been the most positive part about having this volunteer as your Big?” the Little responded:

"Having my Big around is like an anchor for me. He lets me vent out all the feelings I have and do something productive with them, which is really cool.”

Children need someone they feel safe with to share their worries, fears, and concerns as they age, and as adults we can acknowledge and validate those feelings and share supportive ways to cope. I truly believe in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and I urge you to learn more about how you can give back. Two days or a couple of hours a month can make a lifetime of a difference. We are all one community, and we are united with you during this time. You can take the first step towards becoming a Big today.