Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Northern Michigan

We chatted with Cecilia Chesney, Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Northern Michigan.


Can you briefly tell us the mission of your group? 

Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.

How long has the nonprofit been in Northern Michigan?

2020 marks our 50th anniversary, serving over 15,000 children in northwestern Michigan.

How long have you been with the organization and what drew you to working with them?

August, 2020 marks my 10th anniversary with Bigs. I was lucky to grow up with 9 brothers and sisters and two parents. When I learned about Bigs and how many children were living in single-parent homes and had little or no one-on-one time with an adult, I was astonished and knew I could help. Each year, my passion for this organization and the kids in our community has grown stronger.

What can $1 do for your organization? What do donations typically go towards (how far can they reach?)

$1 a week would help provide background checks for potential volunteer mentors

$2 a week would help provide child safety training for staff and volunteers

$5 a week provides parent and volunteer assessment and training (boundaries, guidelines)

$10 a week would provide match support and intervention for six months

$20 a week supports a match between a Big and Little for an entire year

It is an all-around crazy time, but what are some specific challenges you are facing? 

Our team quickly transitioned our program to offer a host of connective opportunities to our Bigs and Littles. Each week a new menu of opportunities is provided, giving our matches a balance of academic, arts/literature, social and emotional support/opportunities.

We are an extension of the families we support, and we’ve developed genuine relationships with them, so when they are struggling, we pull together to provide critical support and resources.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America acted swiftly to modify program standards, allowing us to continue certain components of our process virtually/electronically, which previously required face-to-face connection, and also allows our school-based Bigs and Littles to connect virtually.

Personally, what are things you miss and what do you most look forward to when quarantine is over?

Personally, I miss seeing my Little Sister Lizzy.  I miss seeing our team every day and seeing Board Members and Donors.  I mostly look forward to seeing our kids and families, making sure they are all doing ok.  Seeing is believing.

And what are some of your favorite Michigan food and wine pairings? 

Scallops from the Boathouse and Mawby Green Semi Dry Sparkling