We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of our 3,000 volunteers, and rightly so. They are the ones on the ground spending time with kids and youth and their families to make a positive difference in our community. We are so proud of each and every volunteer and we truly cherish the work they do. So, it’s easy to see why sometimes we forget to share the stories about our team of staff members.
Our staff are the people who recruit, screen, train, and support those 3,000 volunteers. These are the people who connect our families and volunteers to community services, who develop and run programs in our Clubs, who are in schools making sure kids have help with their homework and additional support if they need it. Our staff team of just over 100 amazing individuals is critical to making sure we are connected to our community and are doing our very best each and every day to make sure our kids, families, and volunteers have the tools they need to succeed.
Our Match Facilitators are just one example. They provide ongoing support to the children, families, and volunteers who have been matched in our one-to-one programs.
Amy Jeske has been a Match Facilitator for many years and recently became the Supervisor of our Community Based Programs. Over the course of Amy’s career with us, one family comes to mind when she thinks about a success story.
“Tammy and her nine kids were added to my caseload just over a year ago,” Amy shares. “They’re an Aboriginal family and we were matching one of Tammy’s girls who was in grade eight at the time. All nine kids were on the waiting list for a Big Brother or Big Sister. When I sat down with them, they were the most kind and welcoming people and I could tell that they deeply appreciated our program. Not only were we able to match 5 of the 9 kids over the past year, but I was also able to use Jumpstart funding to get them set up at the YMCA so the kids could get active. Plus, I nominated Tammy for a local parenting award and she won a $250 gift card! I really felt like we were able to wrap multiple community services around this family so they felt supported. We really came through for them.”
We believe it’s important to support the entire family while the volunteer directly supports the child. Not only do our match Facilitators link families to wrap around services, they are key to ensuring that matches are safe, constructive, and positive for the children. That means making lots of phone calls and attending meetings to see how everything is going, providing guidance, and asking important questions like “have you had any sleep overs” or “has your Big ever drank alcohol around you”, “do you need any other supports” and more.
Sharon, a Big Sister matched to an 11 year old little girl, shared with us why she appreciates her Match Facilitator so much.
“About a year and a half into our match, my Little Sister’s parents asked me to participate in a family meeting that I was uncomfortable with. I knew that they thought my presence was going to help my Little, but I worried about how it might impact our relationship. My first response was to call my Match Facilitator and ask what I should do. She was absolutely amazing. She helped me think through the situation and come up with a compromise that worked for the family and also for me and my Little. I don’t know what I would have done without her in that situation and I’m so grateful to know that I can lean on her if any other difficult things come up in the future. It takes away some of the pressure of being a Big Sister.”
Making sure our volunteers feel appreciated and supported is another key component that our Match Facilitators are responsible for. When our volunteers feel like they are making a difference and feel they have guidance and a team behind them, they are more likely to stay matched for the long term, ensuring that the child has a lasting and meaningful relationship.
“Many times when I was following up with a volunteer, I would tell them that the family said they are so grateful for them and the volunteer would be so surprised,” Amy says. “Families and kids always say thank you to the volunteer, but they don’t always communicate the full extent of their gratitude. The volunteer doesn’t get to see the child waiting excitedly by the door before they come or talking a mile a minute to recount the outing to their parent or sibling. So it’s a key part of our role to also facilitate that gratitude and appreciation.”
We are so grateful to the Edmonton Community Foundation for understanding the vital need to fund our Match Facilitator positions so that kids on our waiting list don’t have to wait long. Last year they provided funding support so we could match an additional 100 children to 100 mentors, and monitor them and support them through the Match Facilitator position. Because of their support (and our incredible team) we were actually able to match an additional 241 children to a Big Brother or Big Sister. Our Match Facilitators, and entire staff team, play a fundamental role in ensuring we are providing the very best services to our community’s kids and we thank the Edmonton Community Foundation for helping to make that work possible.